How Should I Choose a College Degree?

Choosing a degree can be a daunting task for students headed to college for the first time or those making a mid-life career change. Practical steps in choosing a degree include self-assessment and researching career educational requirements. Read further for more help in choosing a college degree.

Importance of Self-Assessment in Choosing a College Degree

A first step in choosing a college degree is to assess both your interest and skills in various careers. Online resources such as MappingYourFuture.org provide advice and assessment tools. If you're making a career change, you may want to assess your goals for changing careers. Be certain that you understand the expectations of both the career and the college degree program before making a choice. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides information about careers, required educational minimums, job prospects and salary expectations.

Important Facts About Choosing a College Degree

Online Availability Many schools offer fully or partially online programs, so determine if either option is right for you
Financial Aid Consider a school's financial aid options, including scholarships, grants and loans
Accreditation Verify that your choice meets accreditation standards to ensure a quality education
Prerequisites Many degree programs have specific course prerequisites or other significant admission requirements, like background checks, work experience or current professional certification

Matching Your Career Choice

The choice of which college degree to pursue is usually driven by the career that you have selected. Gather information about your career to learn the educational requirements. When choosing a degree, you're deciding on both a degree field (history, chemistry, etc.) and a degree level (bachelor's, master's, etc.). Of course, a student entering college from high school will usually begin with a bachelor's degree, but knowing what level of education is needed for your chosen career will help in making future education plans.

A social worker usually needs a Master of Social Work (MSW). A physician will need a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. In other fields, a student may choose between two or more degrees in the same career. For example, a doctorate in the field of education can mean a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Education or a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.).

Other Factors

Consider factors such as time for curriculum completion, cost of the degree program, location of the college or university and potential earnings based on the level of the degree. Plan your career path in advance, but be aware of changing social and economic conditions in the career field you pursue. Additional help in choosing a college degree is available from mentors, professional career counselors, and from family and friends.

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