While there have never been so many people applying to college courses as there have been in recent years, the sheer number of students has given rise to a new problem – degrees may not be as valuable as they once were.
There is a clear reason for this. In the past, you would only require a degree if you were looking to pursue a career in a highly specialized industry, such as becoming a surgeon, a lawyer, or an accountant. However, there are now thousands of different degrees available for all kinds of different industries, which means that more people have them.
Employers are therefore less impressed with candidates who have degrees but are more interested in their experience (which has become a rarer and more valuable commodity). This makes it crucial for you to think carefully before deciding whether or not to gain a degree just for the sake of having it on your resume because it may not pack as much of a punch as you might imagine.
Moreover, given the wide variety of degrees on offer, it can be tricky to decide which course – and therefore which career – to embark on. If you want to find a degree that will help unlock a rewarding career for you, this will require much forethought.
This is not to say that you should avoid enrolling in college courses altogether. Certain degrees are not just valuable but altogether necessary in order to progress in your career. If you want to pursue a career as a healthcare professional such as a doctor or nurse, then certain qualifications will be required.
However, finding a degree that offers you a rewarding career is about more than the degree itself. It is about having a comprehensive understanding of yourself, including your strengths and limitations.
Unless you know what you excel at (whether that is skills, knowledge of a certain industry, or particular environments), you cannot hope to choose a career that is going to reward you over a substantial period of time.
For instance, if you like the idea of working in an office, maintaining a steady job that allows you to formulate a certain routine, then your career choices will be very different from someone who can’t sit still for more than two minutes and dreams of running their own company one day.
Neither is better than the other, and both have their strengths and weaknesses. It is your job to work out what those are as quickly as possible to make the best decision for you.
Here is the ultimate guide to finding a degree that offers you a rewarding career path:
Study an online degree alongside your current career in order to remain in the workplace
One of the most significant drawbacks of studying for a degree is completely upend your life to complete the course. Usually, you have to move cities (or even country), find a new job, commute to a campus and meet new friends.
If you already have consistent income, a family and friends nearby, this is a steep price to pay. Indeed, this is an unsustainable model, because you are unlikely to perform to the highest standards possible while adjusting to a new house, meeting new people and searching for a job that may not pay as well as your current one.
This is why online courses are so useful. They allow you to complete the course wherever you are, with the ability to slot it into your existing lifestyle. It doesn’t need to emphasize that this is ideal if you are a busy professional who doesn’t want to give up your current job to change your career or progress with your current one further down the road.
Essentially, online courses offer the best of both worlds and are particularly suited to those who need a degree to progress with an existing career, rather than when you are just starting out.
For example, if you were interested in upskilling your data science career, then joining the online Master’s in Applied Statistics program from Michigan Tech could be for you. Using data science allows businesses to make better decisions by interpreting, modelling, and deploying huge data. This collection of huge data is known as datasets that we can store in PostgreSQL. PostgreSQL is one of the major free, open-source Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS). In general, Postgres provides fast and stable query performance as well as access to data volumes of up to a terabyte per instance. Anyway, because we are dealing with large datasets, and these datasets might have vulnerable information, it becomes imperative to secure the PostgreSQL DB in live servers. Therefore, to minimize threats related to a data breach, it is necessary to have a backup of the PostgreSQL Database–this can be learnt by reading up on blog posts like https://www.linode.com/docs/guides/how-to-back-up-your-postgresql-database/. By now, it must have been clear that data science involves several technologies. Therefore, it could be a good idea to go for a certified course to learn the nitty-gritty of the subject.
Assess your strengths
If you want to find a degree that will lead to a rewarding career, you first need to know exactly what you are best at.
There is no point in trying to pursue a certain career direction if you are naturally ill-suited to the work environment, type of work, or lifestyle that it entails. It may sound interesting, but the temptation of a large salary may be quickly offset by a work environment that you simply don’t excel in.
For example, you may find offices constricting, causing you to lose focus, feel claustrophobic and dread going into work every day. If this is the case, then it almost doesn’t matter what the bonuses are like or what your job title looks like on your resume; the work is not getting the best out of you.
Similarly, you may possess certain natural strengths that could lend themselves to particular occupations and lead to a rewarding career.
Often, we don’t immediately recognize these strengths within ourselves. You think you are strong in one area, but it turns out your true strength actually lies in another place.
It may be worth consulting with your close friends and family, who could give you an honest assessment of what you are good at, and which careers might suit you.
Be honest about your weaknesses
Just as you need to know which areas you excel in, you must have a realistic notion of what your weaknesses are, too. There is no shame in admitting them, as everyone has flaws or areas in which they are simply not attuned to.
The earlier you recognize these weaknesses, the sooner you can either set about addressing them or accept that certain career paths are just not for you. After all, there is nothing worse than dedicating years to your life trying to earn a degree, only to realize halfway through that you just aren’t suited to it and that you need to start over.
What’s more, recognizing your weaknesses can be a way of building strength. No one is good at everything, but you may feel torn between a number of different interests or skills, making it difficult to know which one to pursue as a degree. Accepting that you may not be as naturally adept at a certain skill allows you to narrow down the list of options and help you focus on an area in which you excel at.
Ask yourself what your red lines are
Everyone has certain demands in life – lines in the sand which should never be crossed if possible – and selecting a degree that offers you a rewarding career is no different.
If there are certain targets you have for your life or career that you have set in stone, you should consider them when you formulate a plan for your degree and future career.
For instance, you may want to go traveling across the world, preferring an adventurous lifestyle to a sedentary one. In this case, it might be worth focusing on developing a high-income skill such as coding, web design, copywriting, or consultancy, giving you the ability to work freelance on a sustainable basis.
Once you are freelancing, you can integrate travel into your work by becoming a digital nomad.
Alternatively, you may have a certain wage target, a particular location you want to live in, or refuse to work under certain conditions. These red lines might whittle down your options considerably, but that’s not a bad problem to have. It will allow you to further focus on the select jobs and careers you do want to do.
Factor location into your decision-making process
Following on from the previous point, you need to work out whether you want to relocate for a degree or not. While relocating can be incredibly exciting – the chance to start afresh, meet new people, and explore a new place – it can also cost you a lot of money, be inconvenient or force you to give up important ties back home. These could include romantic relationships, family, close friends and even a job.
This dilemma doesn’t go away. Once you have graduated with a degree, you will need to ask yourself the same question. You may be ready for a new challenge, but it is considerably easier if you pick a college town that offers great work prospects for people within your chosen industry.
What do you define as rewarding?
When choosing a degree that offers the potential for a rewarding career, you need to make sure that you define the term ‘rewarding’, because it means different things to different people.
For some, rewarding might mean a purpose-led career dedicated to pursuing an ideal (whether that is philanthropic, perfectionism, or a certain self-image). For others, a rewarding career might be a certain amount of money in the bank, a particular lifestyle, or being able to immerse themselves in a passion.
In fact, a rewarding career doesn’t even have to be that dramatic. You can feel rewarded as long as your boss is fair, your work is invigorating, you are good at what you do, and your colleagues are pleasant to collaborate with.
The benefits and downsides of working in different environments
One of the best reasons to study for a degree is that it teaches you so much about yourself that you didn’t know before.
For instance, as mentioned above, you may want to work in a certain work environment. Traditionally, you would not fully find out which type of environment you work best in until after college when you are already working a job.
However, there has recently been a rise of online courses which students can opt for instead of conventional campus-based courses.
While the virtues of these have been mentioned above, it is worth considering whether an online course really is best for you or whether an in-person degree is better suited for you.
Online degrees – much like freelance work – are best suited to those who enjoy a distinct work/life balance. It is intended for people who enjoy being able to open their laptops anywhere and start working. It offers a lot of flexibility, allowing you to visit more places, be in control of your own destiny and maintain the lifestyle you have already built for yourself.
However, there is no doubt that there is a lot more responsibility involved when you are away from campus. You must be responsible for yourself at all times, finding time to concentrate deeply on your work, and to stop yourself from being distracted by other pursuits.
If you struggle with the thought of this, then a future as a freelancer is probably not right for you, whereas the more regimented structure of an office could present a better option.
Have a plan, but don’t be afraid to change it if necessary
Finally, it is important to recognize that while having a detailed plan for your degree and future career is important in order to work towards a certain direction, it should not be so regimented that you have no way of changing your mind.
Plans change and are adapted all the time as they respond to new information and viewpoints, and your college plans should be no different.
There is no shame in changing your mind, discovering a new point of view, or realizing that a certain industry is not all it was cracked up to be. The key for you should be to change your mind and adapt before you become so invested in your current degree that it makes no sense to switch courses or drop out.
After all, having a plan that you later change is better than having no plan in the first place. By creating this loose structure to follow in your life, you will be more focused, more driven, and more desperate to succeed.