When you are making an important decision of selecting the right degree program, it is primarily important to consider the goal of that degree. In the past, students opted for subjects and fields that interested them. There were and still are, certain careers that demand only a specific level of competency and knowledge by virtue of a degree, thus, allowing students to investigate degree programs that they find academically interesting and challenging and not necessarily with a specific career in mind. But, with the increasingly saturated job markets and the current economic crisis, a high premium is placed on expertise through the right degree program and training. The job market is getting more and more competitive and specialized fields typically require an equally specialized degree in order to be successful.
Once you have decided on a career, the next question to tackle is then which degree to opt for. There a number of key factors to consider while doing so. Firstly, you will have to decide whether it is necessary and more practical to pursue a Certificate, Associate, or Bachelor education, or if a Master and Doctorate degree is what will make the difference to your future job prospects. Keep in mind your time commitments, monetary constraints as well as your practical academic goals when making your final choice and ask yourself the following questions:
What are you interested in? - You have to be interested in the subject/major of your degree program. Remember this is a commitment of a number of years (depending on which degree you choose) and it will cost you a lot of time and money. If you still are unsure about what major to choose, look at the college's websites, college prospectuses or research on the internet about the courses you might be interested in taking. Many of the sites provide supplementary reading lists so you can research the subject in-detail and see if it actually interests you.
What job are you planning for? - Always think a few steps ahead when planning your education. Look at what requirements are demanded from your career path. To do this, you could turn to websites from schools, universities, and job portals that outline detailed requirements about what employers are looking for. Find out what other students have accomplished with their degrees after they have graduated. With respect to degrees in the arts, humanities and social sciences, the employment opportunities are a lot more flexible than degrees in science.
What colleges have you shortlisted? - If you have a clear idea of where you want to study, investigate the school more carefully. Check league tables and quality assurance and understand that both the institution as well as the quality of an individual department is important. Attend open days and speak to students and parents, if possible. Programs in the same subject may also vary between colleges, so always ask around.
What program would suit your personality? - You must be aware of your strengths, weaknesses, interests and capabilities to correctly decide on a degree and career for you. Are you practical and meticulous enough for a hard core science-based program or do you lean more towards the arts and creativity? Ask your friends and family for their opinions as well and once a clear profile emerges, match this with your short list of education options to ensure future success.
What degrees are in demand? - If you are still uncertain about your choice or have varied interests, you need to find out which degrees are in demand. The higher the demands for a specific degree, the greater are the pay scales and opportunity for advancement. Choosing such a degree will make your job search easier and more lucrative in the long run.
Which degree has accelerated options? - Accelerated degree programs might seem an unusual idea at first but there are some degrees which may take twice as long to complete compared to other programs. For example, biology versus communications. The longer the program is means more time and money and in such cases, an accelerated option might make sense.
Remember, it's extremely important to take some time before deciding which college degree program to choose. So, go ahead - plan, research and finally, trust your instincts.