The decision to go to college is a big deal! Understanding the financial and time commitments, as well as knowing that a host of unforeseen events for you to deal with will occur during the course of your studies, is just the start. There are so many choices. Traditional classroom learning or online…maybe a mix of both? Full-time learning or part-time…day or night? In the end, whether you have aspirations of starting your dream career, getting that sought-after promotion at work, or perhaps even completely changing what you do, it is important to pick the right degree and program of study.
Unfortunately this is not always an easy process. Some disciplines are very broad and others are more concentrated. You may know that you’re interested in helping people and want to get into the healthcare field but does that mean nursing? Medical Assisting? Clinical or administrative healthcare? Big hospital or small practice office? Perhaps you like business but are you interested in accounting, marketing, or maybe management? What’s the difference? There are so many options how can you start to narrow down the search?
To get started, here are a set of questions for you to ask yourself and a prospective college when evaluating whether a program is right for you:
What is the current level of Employment Demand? First things first, what am I interested in and will there be jobs available for me after I graduate? There are multiple resources to use to help give you a sense of the employment market. You can research hundreds of occupational profiles at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the O*Net OnLine, or your state’s department of labor website. They will give you insights into what day to day life is like in that type of job, training and education usually required, plus employment projections and wage information. Check employment publications or online sites, such as Monster.com or Careerbuilder.com, for available openings in your area and look at the posted job requirements. Do I need a bachelor’s degree or higher or do most of the current job holders have an associate degree or a technical diploma?
Are there practical experiences, certifications or credentials required for employment? Some jobs, for various reasons, require certification or practical experience in order to find employment. These could include professions like teaching or nursing, where you get mandatory hands-on practice and need to be certified with the state or another third party. In other professions, hiring managers may give special consideration to those holding industry certifications such as Microsoft® or Cisco® certifications in technology, or LEED certifications in construction management or drafting. Do your research and find out what employers are looking for in their new hires and once you believe you’ve narrowed down your list of skills find a school that teaches those concepts in a program that meets your long term interests and goals.
What are the advantages that each institution provides through the course of my program? Does the curriculum include instruction for the skills that employers are asking that their employees have? What supplemental benefits exist? Things like hands-on learning time, thorough lab components, internship or externship opportunities, scholarships, and career assistance. Does the program prepare you for the industry certifications if they are required? Even if they aren’t required does the program include instruction on those topics? Are there labs with up-to-date equipment available on the campus? Who are the instructors and what experiences do they bring to the daily classroom from outside the classroom? What sorts of industry connections does the program have and what are some examples of employers who hire graduates of this program?
When it’s all said and done the decision to go back to college is an important one and choosing the right program is step one. New training, a new degree, or a new certification can open many doors for you and it’s up to you to make an informed choice because you’re in charge of deciding which doors you want to open! Start doing your homework now because, not only is it good practice, getting an ‘A’ on this assignment could be the event that helps to kick-start your life in a whole new direction.
Director of Marketing