“Do what you love,” said every person you ask for career and college advice, ever.
That answer is not always the case. In fact, there’s no easy way to decide which degree program is the best for you. “Doing what you love” may not be an option. Maybe you’re unsure of the occupational prospects, or a major lifestyle change is just not possible with your family responsibilities. Or, perhaps your transfer credits fit better into another area of study, and are the difference between finishing your degree in a year or several years. That’s a lot of worry-free time you could have spent enjoying something else.
When choosing a degree program, it’s easy to get caught up in all the choices, listening to everyone else’s opinion, even selecting what you’re “supposed” to do. But, at the end of the day, the best degree will work for you, and there are a number of sensible considerations to be aware of in choosing your perfect degree program.
1. Will it help you with your career?
First for a reason, the degree you choose should help you reach your career goal. Are you looking for a career change? A promotion? Personal fulfillment? If your goals change, you can always switch your degree program at any time; advisors can help you evaluate your credits and see how they apply to any other program you want. You can also pick up where you left off or restart a program you began 20 years ago.
2. What are you good at?
Conduct an honest self-assessment. How do you choose to spend your free time? What activities do you enjoy? What topics do you find interesting? Determine what qualities and skills you are already good at. Think about the things others compliment you on. Then investigate possible industries or fields that rely on the interests, abilities and talents you already possess.
3. What are you hearing?
Ask friends, family members, and even the University’s alumni and current students about their experiences in the profession or degree program you are interested in. Their feedback may be valuable and eye opening; you may find that a career path is not for you after learning about the drawbacks.
4. Did you do your research?
Check out career paths for the majors or degrees you are interested in using online resources like SimplyHired or My Next Move. These websites offer useful job search tools including salary guides, job trends and filters that help you search for jobs that match your unique education, experience level and skill set. Review the insider information, news and advice about companies, industries and specific jobs to help you make critical career decisions.
5. Did you look at the program’s course offerings?
The courses offered in most programs are a strong indicator of what you will experience in the career field. Review the syllabus for several courses. Will you enjoy the assignments? Will you be able to meet the requirements? Do the subjects sound intriguing? If a course, or several courses, gives you pause to take them, you may want to re-evaluate your area of study.
Written by Thomas Edison State University