In today’s higher education landscape, there are a LOT of choices which can make things confusing. Especially since all of the schools and colleges are vying for your attention and dollars, and all of them are touting their programs and educational experience as exceptional. Additionally, the higher education system has done a fabulous job of branding itself as a necessary component of reaching the “good life”. In fact, I would venture to say that they have created a hype around the importance of having a college degree that almost rivals the NFL’s hype of the importance of the Super Bowl. The reengineering of learning models (think Udemy, Udacity) and the scrutiny of higher education elitists and their broken educational delivery systems is proof plenty that the traditional college system is undergoing a huge transformation.
With that said, it is here to stay (for now) and it can be a necessary and beneficial vehicle for getting you to specific career fields. But not all colleges and universities are created equal and there are several things to consider when trying to determine the path that is right for you and help narrow down the field–a checklist of sorts. Today, I will talk about one of the most important factors: applicability.
Applicable–The most important factor to consider is whether or not the educational program you are considering is necessary or required to get you to where you want to go–in other words, is it applicable. This may seem obvious, but sometimes it isn’t. For example, a 4-year degree (a.k.a. bachelor’s or baccalaureate degree) is usually not required to go into law enforcement. Will it help? Possibly at the entry level, and more likely when one is ready to advance or promote. But it is not necessarily a prerequisite to get started. Usually, a short stint at the community college and then the police academy is the best place to start. Is a 4-year degree necessary for a career in sales or business ownership or graphic design? Probably not. Will it be helpful in learning certain skills? Most likely. But if you want to learn specific skills like office software or accounting software or marketing tactics, you probably don’t need two years of general education prior to two years of your major courses.
Additionally, graduate programs like masters and doctorate programs can be unnecessary. This is where additional investigation is required. I would only recommend graduate programs that are needed to get a license or a certification of some kind. For example, a master’s in social work will allow you to sit for a state licensing exam, which would earn you a certification to be a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). In fact, that master’s degree is required for that license. But a master’s in psychology will not. In fact, a master’s in psychology won’t do much of anything for you. You can’t get licensed, which means you can’t have your own practice. To get licensed, you have to have a doctorate in psychology.
The point is do your homework. Don’t just take the school’s word for it. Talk to someone in the field (more than one, if possible) and ask them about their educational path. How did they do it? Where did they go to school and why? Would they do anything differently if they could do it again?
Next time, I’ll cover the next biggie: Accreditation.
For your advantage,