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How to Pick a Degree Program by Answering 5 Simple Questions

Deciding to earn a degree is a big decision. If it’s your first degree or you’ve been away from school for a while, trying to choose the right degree program can get complicated quickly. Even knowing where to start can be tough. To help, we’re walking you through some of the most important questions and biggest factors to consider – from finding a degree program that aligns with your strengths and interests to researching career growth potential and industry needs.

1. What are my strengths?

If you feel lost, start with what you’re good at. Make your own list and then ask a few people who know you well what you missed. Consider which traits your bosses and colleagues have praised or perhaps think about when people are most likely to request your help. Maybe your church keeps asking you to plan and lead new group initiatives. This might mean you have a natural talent for organizational leadership and you might search for a Bachelor of Business Administration or other similar business degrees. Maybe your friends always turn to you for advice on family and relationship problems, and you have a knack for listening and providing guidance. Those skills could translate to a potential career in psychology or counseling, perhaps starting with earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

2. What fields and careers most interest me?

Don’t be afraid to look outside your current strengths. They’re an excellent place to start, but the whole point of going to school is to learn new skills, so it’s perfectly okay to try something new. If you enjoy helping people and caring for others, it’s fine that you’ve never worked in a healthcare setting. Healthcare degrees are built to prepare you with the skills and knowledge needed for the field and remember, your instructors are often a great source of information about your chosen field.

3. Which careers have the best job outlook?

Once you’ve picked a few possible career fields based on your strengths and interests, find out which careers have a strong potential job outlook. The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a great place to start. You can easily find data on employment growth, average salary, job responsibilities and more for hundreds of occupations. Seeing which jobs have the most potential for growth can help you hone in on the career and the goals you want to pursue.

4. What level degree program is the right fit for my goals?

This question has two parts. First, what are the best degrees and programs for preparing for the career you want? Some jobs require bachelor’s degrees. Others prefer or require a specific master’s degree. In other cases, you can get started in two years or less with an associate degree. Again, the BLS is a trusted source for this information. The second thing to consider is how long you are willing to spend in school. Those who know they don’t want to put in the time required for a master’s degree can easily cross certain careers off their list.

5. How can I make a degree program fit into my schedule?

You may be able to adjust your schedule some when you go back to school, but realistically you’re bound to be balancing multiple priorities. As you narrow down your list of the best degrees for you and the top colleges offering those programs, see what type of flexibility those schools offer. Many schools offer evening and weekend courses. Online degree programs from an accredited university can also offer you the flexibility you need. Some schools even offer programs that combine campus and online learning. Base your choice on your schedule and learning preferences, but keep an open mind. These days, online classrooms can include many features that facilitate and encourage high-levels of faculty and student interaction, support and discussion.

Your Next Move: Contact Your Top Colleges and Programs

Before finalizing your choice, reach out to representatives at your top colleges. You’ll learn a lot by inquiring about their program’s outcomes, courses, support services, alumni and faculty. If you’re interested in online learning, ask about their online classroom and what it’s like to pursue one of their online degrees. For in-person learning, ask about the campus facilities and plan a tour to see the campus for yourself.

To learn about South University’s flexible campus-based and online degree programs, request information online today.