As we all know, those with postsecondary degrees earn more income and enjoy higher positions in their careers. Determining which degree to pursue is easy for those who know the career path they’ll take upon graduation. For the rest of us, however, that choice is not so easy. And there are few people who actually want to spend nine years in college like Van Wilder, or be faced with switching majors three years into a four-year degree. But how can you determine the right degree for you?
- Meet with a career counselor. Trying to settle on the right career for you involves understanding your personality and skills, which is difficult to discern when examining yourself. This is where career counselors enter the picture. They provide clients with unbiased career advice, tailored to clients’ needs, wants, and abilities. Career counselors have the knowledge and skills to work with people in determining which careers would both suit and interest them. To do this, counselors use assessment tests that define their clients’ interests, personality, strengths, weaknesses, and work values.
- Research your career choices. Take the career list your counselor created, and begin researching them. While your career counselor might have explained them to you, doing advanced research will help you decide which careers most interest you. Research the tasks inherent in a career, the educational or certificate requirements, how much you can hope to earn, whether there is room for professional growth, and what the employment outlook is in the near future. A good place to start with this is with through career-oriented professional organizations or the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Narrow down your list. After conducting your research, narrow down your list of possible careers. You can do this by asking yourself questions like, “How many years am I willing to devote to my education?” and “How many hours am I willing to work weekly?” For instance, if you don’t want to spend more than six years in school and don’t want to work more than 40 hours per week, you could eliminate a career as a doctor.
- Observe plausible careers. Once you have narrowed down your list to about three to five possible careers, attempt to observe professionals in the field. Talk to family and friends to see if they or someone they know is in any of the careers that interest you. You may be able to shadow them in their workplace so that you can experience a day (or longer if you’re lucky) in that career. This will further help you to eliminate career choices.
- Choose your career. At this point, you should have enough information to determine which career you’d like to pursue. However, make sure you are choosing a career for the right reason; i.e. that it will be something you will enjoy doing five days a week, for years on end. Money may be the reason we work, but it can only make you happy to a certain point. If you are still undecided, you may want to consider going back to your career counselor and researching a new list of careers.
- Determine your degree options. Once you have determined the career you’d like to pursue, begin researching your degree options. Usually, careers don’t require applicants to hold the same degree. For example, journalists might have degrees in journalism, English, or communications. Also research whether you can go right into your desired career with a bachelor’s degree or if you must continue your studies with a master’s, doctorate, or other advanced degree before beginning your career.
- Choose your degree. After considering your options, it comes time to choose which degree path you will take. If you have several options, narrow down your choices by determining which degrees are more marketable for pursuing the career of your choice, which degree will give you the best education, which degree most interests you, and also which degree has the most career options.
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