You’ve made the decision to earn a college degree – but you’re still not sure what field of study to pursue. You might start by considering three key factors, says Caroline Simpson, American Public University System Associate Vice President of Student Advising.
- What are your personal and professional goals?
- What other learning have you accomplished?
- What kind of professional experience do you have?
“Personal interests drive some students to an entirely new subject. Others want to continue in their current profession – where an advanced degree could help them move up,” says Simpson.
For many adult students, says Simpson, the ability to transfer credits from another college or military school is a determining factor. Credit transfers can provide a head start – often a significant one – on the diploma path. On the other hand, some students have excelled in one industry but now want a new challenge or learning experience.
“To make the best decision, students should carefully consider all three factors,” says Simpson. They also may want to attend a virtual open house to learn about available programs and schools before enrolling.”
At American Public University and American Military University – which are part of APUS – students select their major as part of their admission application. Then, during the first week of courses, students are introduced to a specific student advisor with expertise in their field of study. Advisors support students throughout their degree program should personal or professional goals change.
“We discuss their education goals,” says Simpson. “Some want a fast degree path to help them with a civilian or military promotion. We find that the ability to start a course at the beginning of virtually any month is a big plus for students, giving adult students the flexibility they need.
“When they near the end of studies for their undergraduate degree, we’ll also ask if they want to pursue a master’s program or a graduate certificate, and help them with those decisions.”
“Regardless of the need, the advising team works to best support our students.”
Additional tips and resources
Identify your area – or areas – of interest
APUS has a self-guided program – FOCUS-2 – designed to evaluate the strengths, interests, values, skills, and personality traits of each participant in relation to specific career choices. In minutes, participants can yield a listing of careers relevant to their unique characteristics and degree pathway. Access FOCUS-2 >
Students may use and reuse the system to explore different options and multiple possibilities. FOCUS-2 occupation descriptions come from the ONET system, which serves as the U.S. Department of Labor’s primary source of key information describing the attributes and characteristics of workers and occupations.
Conduct research, interview professionals in the career field you want
The U.S. Department of Labor produces an annual Occupational Handbook. This handbook provides details on training and education needed, earnings, expected job prospects, what workers do on the job and working conditions for hundreds of different kinds of jobs.
Visit your local library and bookstore.
Peruse industry related journals and career guides to learn more about career paths and occupations. APUS has a number of professional organizations listed on its website to aid in your research, as well. Visit professional organizations websites to learn more about careers.
Network with family, friends and colleagues to locate a person working in your field of interest. Set up a meeting to learn about the job and common college majors recruited for this career path. If you’re having difficulty locating someone from within your own networking circle, contact professional organizations (listed in the website above) to see if a representative from a local chapter can answer your questions.
Attend Career Fairs and speak with recruiters.
Recruiters are interested in identifying qualified candidates to fill their positions. If you know the organization you’d like to work for, but you’re still undecided about a major, ask recruiters which degrees they most often hire for – and the types of entry level jobs available for new college graduates. This information will help you determine if your educational interests are in alignment with the needs of the organization.
– By Online Learning Tips Staff