Deciding to earn a degree is a big decision. Especially if you’re earning your first undergraduate degree or you’ve been away from school for a while, choosing the right a degree program can get complicated quickly. Even knowing where to start can be tough. To help, we’re walking you through some of the biggest factors to consider—from how to find a degree program that aligns with your strengths and interests, to researching career growth potential and industry needs.
1. What are your strengths?
If you feel lost, start with what you’re good at. Make your own list, and then ask a few of the people who know you best what you’ve missed. Consider which traits your bosses and colleagues have praised and dig up your most recent job evaluation. Or think about when you’re asked for help. Maybe your manager keeps asking you to plan office lunches or outings. If so, perhaps you have a natural talent for organizational leadership and you should search for a Bachelor of Business Administration or other similar business degrees. Maybe your friends always want your insight on family and relationship problems because you have a knack for listening and providing guidance that could translate to a psychology or counseling career. For that, you’d want to start with earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Discovering your strengths and how they translate to appropriate careers can help narrow down programs that you can excel in.
2. What fields most interest you?
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 you’ve never done. 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. Perhaps you enjoy working with numbers or computers – a degree in Accounting or Information Technology may be right up your alley.
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 job outlook. The Occupational Outlook Handbook from US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a great place to start. You can easily find data on employment growth, salary, job responsibilities, and more for hundreds of occupations. You can also work in reverse and identify careers that have the best outlook in your area and see which seem interesting to you and align with what you are already good at doing.
4. What level degree program is the right fit?
This question has two parts. First, what are the best degrees for preparing for the career you’re considering? Some jobs require bachelor’s degrees, others prefer or require master’s degrees, and, in some cases, you can get started right away with an associate’s 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. While some schools may offer accelerated or dual bachelor’s to master’s programs, anyone who knows they don’t want to devote the time required for bachelor’s or master’s degrees can easily cross certain careers off their list.
5. What is the right format for earning your degree?
You may be able to adjust your schedule some when you go back to school, but realistically you’ll still need to balance multiple priorities. As you narrow down your list of the best degrees for you and your top colleges offering those programs, find out what type of flexibility those schools offer and what learning format might work best for you. A typically campus experience may be right for you with many schools offer evening and weekend courses to appeal to working adults. Depending on the nature of the degree program, you may be able to earn your degree fully online or in a hybrid campus and online format. Base your choice on your schedule and learning preferences, but keep an open mind. While online learning can sound intimidating, the web-based classrooms for online degrees are typically built to 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 outcomes, faculty, and alumni. If you’re interested in online learning, ask what it’s like to pursue one of their online degrees. To learn about any of South University’s associates, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees, you can request information anytime on our site or call us 1.800.688.0932.