Work Smarter

How To Choose the Right Degree For You

by Ben Welch

The number and nature of college degrees are as diverse as the people who get them. They come in different sizes - associate, bachelors, masters, and doctoral - and in scores of different subjects. So how do you choose the right degree for you? Here are a few questions you may want to ask yourself.

Which degree best suits me?
One of the most effective ways to select a degree is to find one that fits your personality and tastes. Make a list of strengths, weaknesses, passions, and any experiences that have motivated you. Get suggestions from family and friends - try to see yourself through another's eyes. Then, once you've created a profile of yourself, browse through a list of college degrees and majors and see which ones suit you. Remember that you will spend a couple of years focused on one particular area, so you want to find a degree that will hold your interest.

What career do I want?
Another way to choose a degree is to start with the career you want and work backwards. If you are interested in becoming a city planner, for instance, then you should investigate what degrees are best suited to that career, such as geography. Certain jobs require specific degrees; others are far more flexible. Some jobs require a bachelors degree whereas others prefer a masters degree of higher. The idea is to start planning from the outset for your intended career and make decisions accordingly.

What degrees are in high demand?
If you are uncertain about your career or if you have varied interests, you may want to consider which degrees are in most demand. High demand for a particular degree - such as nursing or software engineering - usually means better compensation (higher pay), more opportunity for advancement, and greater job security. Choosing a degree in high demand will make the transition from college into the workforce easy and, more importantly, lucrative.

Which degree can I obtain quickly?
At first glance, finding a degree that can be obtained quickly may sound like you're looking for a short-cut. In fact, it is a perfectly reasonable question. The requirements for degrees vary by program, and some programs, such as microbiology, may take twice as long to complete as other programs, such as communications. Longer programs mean more time in school and more money. The fact is that many careers simply require that you have a degree - any degree - and as such, it would be to your advantage to find a degree you can complete as quickly as possible. Or perhaps you want to apply to graduate school. For many graduate programs, such as law school and medical school, it doesn't matter what major you choose as long as you have a bachelors degree. Just remember, at the end of the day, whether you majored in microbiology or communications, the degree is the same. So why take more time than you need?

Eventually, every student has to decide on a degree. Some students take years to decide, putting off the decision as long as possible and wasting valuable time and money in the process. The decision shouldn't be that difficult - if you know the right questions to ask. Save yourself the agony and find the perfect degree right from the start.

Benjamin Welch has been a college instructor in writing and composition for nearly six years. When he's not teaching or playing golf, he writes articles about online education, careers, and online degrees.

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