Pursuing a college degree is no easy feat for any student—a college degree symbolizes a fork in the road. It is an opportunity that, regardless of a student’s background, may sometimes be intimidating. Most students want to ensure that they get a promising start to their college careers by picking the correct major from the very beginning, a task that is sometimes easier said than done.
A great way to start is to ask yourself some questions, like:
The purpose of this is to perform an in-depth self-assessment of your strengths and goals, which will help you make the right decision. Students who are good at math, for example, may be interested in a range of degrees from Math Education to Information Technology. An individual’s goals may also help to narrow those choices.
In addition to personal factors, potential students should conduct research into their career options. Each career field is unique in its demand, pay, the cost of education and training, and room for advancement.
Attending college online is more popular than ever. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 12% of all college students are enrolled solely in a virtual degree program. This is largely due to the fact that online courses can be more cost-effective and accessible for students with full-time or part-time careers, family commitments, or other obligations that prevent them from being able to attend traditional, on-campus classes.
Some of the strengths of online programs as compared to traditional programs are:
On the other hand, there are a few potential downsides that you should also be prepared for:
If you're thinking about a second degree, online colleges provide the perfect mix of convenience so that you can earn a degree to complement an existing career or further develop professional skills without having to cut back on hours.
While it is not necessary to choose a major at the beginning of your college career, there are a few things to consider that will help pave the path to success: personal and professional interests, the cost of the program, and the employment rates of various careers in addition to their payoff.
First, a potential student should always gear their studies towards their personal priorities and interests. Someone who hates to read and write should probably not start with a major in journalism. Likewise, someone whose strengths are not in numbers should probably avoid pursuing an online degree in accounting. No matter what your passion or drive, there is almost always a corresponding degree to your professional aspirations.
There are resources available to help students figure out what types of careers might fall in line with their particular interests. Websites such as My Next Move or the Princeton Review’s Career Quiz provide students with a series of questions that connects their interests to certain professions in order to give a sense of direction.
For adult students who have already invested time into an existing career, a college degree may be determined by taking into consideration the types of coursework that could expand on the skills and experience that you have already gained.
For professionals, online degrees can serve as a stepping stone to bigger, and better paying, opportunities in their field. As an example, many may start out in the technical field with an associate’s degree in IT, to later discover that a bachelor’s degree in information security is a reasonable, affordable method of boosting their resume.
It is also helpful to do some research on each of the careers that you are seriously considering.
When gathering information on various careers, take note of average salaries, as well as job demand and expected growth in the current economy. You can explore careers on government websites such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH).
For example, according to the OOH, home health aides are one of the highest demanded positions, alongside of financial advisors and physical therapists. However, the average pay of home health aides is less than $25,000 each year, while the average salary for physical therapists and financial advisors surpass $75,000 annually. In other words, you will want to balance salary with job growth.
The OOH also gives you an overview of the typical responsibilities and work environment for each profession. Some professions require sitting for long periods of time while others require intensive physical labor; some spend their days primarily outside in the sun, and other occupations hardly ever require you to leave the office building.
Knowing these kinds of details will help you to determine whether a certain career would fit well into your preferred lifestyle and goals.
In addition to an associate or bachelor’s degree, it's not unusual for certain fields to require a licensure or certification. Sometimes, employers will cover the costs of these qualifications for developing professionals.
In other situations, programs may offer relevant certifications or licensure in conjunction with the coursework for certain programs so that students are more competitive upon graduating. There are also many official accrediting boards for professions that require certain standards of their respective programs in order to create reliable, knowledgeable professionals.
The average cost of an online degree varies greatly, anywhere from $10,000 to more than $100,000. This pricetag depends on factors like if the program is a two-year, four-year, or advanced degree. Find out which four factors impact online college cost the most.
Some online programs may cost more than others because they offer specific accreditations, internships, certifications, or other opportunities that may be more valuable than the financial costs presented. The unique qualities of each program should be considered carefully to ensure that the potential professional gets every bang for their buck. Always weigh the cost of the program to the average salary in your chosen field, and plan accordingly. And remember, a high pricetag does not guarentee a high quality education.
If you are undecided, it can sometimes be helpful to look at the decisions of other students before coming to a conclusion. By taking a look at the most popular college majors across the country, you can get an idea of how other individuals in your situation make the same difficult decision.
College majors can be popular for any number of reasons—their broad applicability, societal trends, the global economy, and more. We list the 5 most popular online college majors:
The concept of adding a minor may get tossed around during undergraduate registration. Picking a minor is not a requirement at most universities, but many students may find it beneficial. Minor fields of study typically require a handful of hours—usually, less than 30 credit hours by themselves—in addition to the liberal arts classes and the coursework required for the completion of your main college major.
For some students, choosing a minor to accompany a college degree can be a no-brainer. It may be viewed as an enriching experience for students who are easily able to supplement their major program. For other students, choosing a program may just add unnecessary stress and distraction in deciding on courses to complement their primary studies.
A couple of pointers when choosing a minor: