Which Type of College Degree is Right for Me?



When it comes to which type of college degree is right for you, there are a few things you'll want to consider:

1) What do I want to do as a career?

2) What type of college degree is usually required to do that career successfully?

3) How many years of school will it take to get that degree?

4) Am I willing to go to school for that many years?

5) Will that degree pay the amount I need in order to achieve my life's goals?

If you have a career services office on campus (check on your school's website using either the search bar or an a-z index), the counselors there can help you find out the answers to these questions.

Also, by using the internet, you can find out the answers to these questions quickly. A good place to start is the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupation list. Also, Look at the Occupational Employment "Chartbook".

Something to keep in mind when choosing a career is that, depending on the career of your choice, you might not have to go to school for very long.

The career will choose the type of college degree you'll want to get.

For example, to be a life insurance agent, you need to pass your specific state's certification test.

After you do, you'll get a license to sell life insurance. This really only requires studying the different areas of life insurance, nothing more (i.e. no college degree).

However, if you want to be a doctor, lawyer, accountant, or professor, then expect to be in school for 3-6+ years after your bachelor's degree.

Another thing to keep in mind is that those with college degrees will, on average, earn more over his or her lifetime than those who don't.

According to recent U.S. Census data, earnings increase significantly over a lifetime of work for those with a college education.

College Degree Earning Power

Of course, just having a type of college degree (bachelor's, master's, etc.) doesn't guarantee a certain level of income. It must be a needed degree, in a field that will pay a good income, and in a field in which you will excel and work hard.

In other words, the degree won't do it all for you! You are still personally responsible for your own success. This is measured only partly by what you learn in college.

Now, I want to give a brief overview of each type of college degree. This is not meant to be comprehensive, but enough to give you a good idea of each type.

I will go in order from least amount of school to most amount of school.

Certificates and Certifications

Certificates are a type of college certification (not a degree) in which you can go to school for a short period of time, get the training you need, and then start in that career field.

Generally, these programs last 6-24 months, depending on the program and level of necessary training. These kinds of certifications are usually offered by trade schools.

The benefits to this kind of certification are that you can get into the work force and start your career quickly.

The disadvantages include that the certificate is not a degree and your ability to move up in the corporate ladder might be limited by your lack of education. This also might mean limited income.

Still, if you want to increase your earning power, but don't want to or can't afford to go to college, then this would be a great option for you.

2 Year Degree

A 2 year degree is a type of college degree that usually goes by the name of an Associate's Degree. This is an actual degree awarded to a student for completing certain classes.

However, some certification programs can last up to two years, but are not an Associate's Degree.

An associate's degree is a good starting point. It will lock in the credits earned while getting the degree (which will include many general education credits).

"Locking in" credits means that if you ever have to leave school for any reason and come back years later, you won't have to take those courses over.

However, because every school is different, it is highly recommended that you check with your registrar or registration office to make sure before deciding to leave school.

This was the case with my mother-in-law. She got her associate's degree years ago. Recently, she decided to go back to school.

She was able to skip several classes because she had her associate's degree (this included math classes)! This meant she had to pay less money for school and finished quicker.

A 2 year degree can provide better income than a high school education. This, of course, depends on other factors plus your degree.

It is important to remember that, as with any degree, you must complete the required classes and apply for graduation through your school's graduation or registrar's office to be awarded an associate's degree.

4 Year Degree

A 4 year degree is the most common type of college degree. In most cases, this is referred to as a Bachelor's Degree. However, other degrees and certifications can take 4 years,for example an RN.

Most bachelor's degrees take 4 to 5 years.

If you take full time courses every semester in college (excluding summers) and follow the suggested course sequence by the department you are majoring in, 4 years is very doable.

But, if you were to take full time summer semesters also, and just burned through the degree quickly (or took more than full-time schedule during Fall & Spring semesters), then you could finish faster.

Seriously consider what you can handle before you attempt anything above full-time student status (generally, above 18 credit hours or 6 classes per semester).

A bachelor's degree can provide a decent income, depending on what degree you get. I have nothing against art majors, but don't expect a six figure salary with an art degree.

This is not to be confused with a Bachelor's of Arts Degree.

This is a type of bachelor's degree that a student can get if he or she speaks two languages and meets other requirements set by the school.

It is safe to say that a bachelor's degree will increase your earning power if you choose the right degree and use the knowledge you obtain correctly.

A Master's Degree

A Master's Degree is a type of college degree that furthers your education beyond a four year degree. Most master's degrees can be completed in one to two years after a bachelor's.

A master's degree is received by going to graduate school. This means that you will have to be admitted to a graduate school. This means that you will have to apply for the school and get accepted.

You might have to take a graduate school entrance exam like the GMAT, GRE, or other test, and score well on it, to receive acceptance into the school.

This might seem like a lot, but it could mean a significant difference in pay over your lifetime. This type of college degree could also mean that you get offered a job over someone with just a bachelor's degree.

You have more qualifications.

Just remember, a degree isn't everything. You have to have other skills to be successful. But, having a degree sure can give you the boost and edge you need to get where you want to be faster.

The PhD

A PhD is a type of college degree that is really beyond what most college students are in school for. Ph.D is an abbreviation for Doctor of Philosophy. It is a doctorate degree.

This degree can take 4-6+ years after your bachelors degree depending on what you want to receive your doctorate in. With these degrees you can be a doctor, dentist, professor, lawyer, etc.

Again, you will be required to take graduate school entrance exams (GMAT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, etc.) and apply at several graduate schools.

Competition is fierce and many factors are taken into consideration by each graduate school.

It is important that if this is your long term goal that you take your undergraduate very seriously. You need a decent GPA and a good graduate school entrance exam score (among other things) to be admitted to the best graduate schools.

The programs are very rigorous and very focused into a specific area of expertise. There is a lot of researching involved in this type of degree and the professions that follow.

Still, with the jump in years of extra school, so can your income jump significantly. Again, this depends on the area of emphasis, if you finish the degree, and the demand for it.

If you are interested in this type of college degree, take some time looking into if it would be worth your time to pursue it further. Will it pay off in the end? Will you be happy? Do you really need this type of college degree to reach your goals?

Always Remember This...

In the end, it is important to always remember that it is up to you! No amount of education will do you any good if the degree isn't needed or demanded in this world.

Also, a degree is only part of the equation of success. You must have other needed characteristics and qualities to find success.

I hope that you find success in whatever direction you want to take your life!

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