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Schools organize their programs around the principle that education itself isn’t enough—graduates need to be ready to do something with that education right at graduation. Career-focused education offers the greatest variety of degree opportunities because everything from associate’s degrees to doctorates can be streamlined for that purpose. Accelerated degree programs and job-specific training make it a practical and accessible choice if you know where you want to go and what you want to do. Online college and degree programs—as well as hybrid programs featuring class time both online and in-person--take advantage of this, making them a great fit for the average non-traditional student.
A career-focused educational approach ensures your degree program has a purpose and a point. What you learn has personal, real-world applications in your future work. It is a viable option for both non-traditional students and online colleges offer degrees with this approach. If you know who you are, what you want, and where you’re going, a career-oriented education may be the best approach. There are some degrees that flat-out cannot be earned solely in online programs; if you’re learning how to be a dental technician, at some point you’ll need to interact with some teeth (that aren’t your own). Despite this, schools offer online degrees in a surprising number of subjects and are innovating ways to approach and teach conventional material. Read more.
Ask most teenagers clawing their way out of the tepid chlorine pool of mandated public education if they want to attend college after graduating and you’ll get one of three responses:
*Don’t ask them why. Just don’t.
Adolescent or not, you know which one you are. Whether you love learning or just need adegree to move forward with your life, the idea of more school can sound wearying and altogether unwelcome. (Admit it—sometimes, in your deepest nightmares, you still dream of isosceles triangles.) But it’s not about rewarding obedience or running out the clock till the bell rings. It’s about you, and what you want to do with your life.
Over the course of their education, all students will ask a fundamental existential question: “Why do I need to know this?” Regardless of subject, the best classes—and teachers—turned seemingly strange or pointless information (hello square dancing, sixth grade gym class) into relevant and accessible knowledge (…nope, square dancing is not and will never be a valuable social skill). Even if they could not articulate how that information would be useful in that moment, it was a part of a larger educational plan to prepare students to live and thrive in the world. Not all schools interpret this the same way, and it is vital for students to consider which tack best fits the education they want.
For some people it’s enough to learn how something works, and how to make it happen regularly and efficiently. For others, it’s about answering the whys, for a better and more complete understanding of the subject. Nothing less than the mysteries of the universe, or nothing more than how to fix a toaster and get paid for it.
This is one common approach to higher education. It emphasizes coursework in a number of disciplines for a well-rounded general education, either before or alongside classes in one chosen field. Students are required to take classes in the hard and social sciences, humanities, and the arts; the exact requirements vary depending on the school and program. It is common for four-year colleges to offer programs like this, but it is also possible to earn associates and master’s degrees in the category of Liberal Arts.
For many people, a college education is worth pursuing for its own sake. These degrees let you explore your interests, to learn things not because they are immediately useful but because they are interesting to you. The traditional four-year bachelor’s degree is designed with this in mind and provides time to find a focus and choose a major. These degrees ready students for work in general categories, e.g. a B.A. in English Literature would teach skills applicable to a number of fields. They provide you with possibilities. The downside? Earning one doesn’t guarantee you a career, much less a job.
You have to know where you are to know where you’re going. Your personality, skills, and priorities are incredibly important to consider when choosing a degree program and, ultimately, a career. Get started!
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Your elementary school teacher was right: you can do anything!* But, as anyone nearing adulthood has realized, just because you can do anything doesn’t mean you should. (Just because you enjoy fine alpaca sweaters doesn’t mean you should be a llama farmer.) *Within reason.
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