A college education in and of itself is a great thing, do not get me wrong. But unless you are retired, nobody goes into a college degree program without also thinking about how it will affect their career. That might be the career you hope to have someday. It might be career you’re in the middle of right now or the one you’re trying to leave behind. A college degree is a building block of a strong career.

Having said that, however, connecting your college degree with the career that you desire is sometimes harder than it looks. While some college degrees transition nicely into careers after graduation, other degree programs don’t make the transition so tidy.


Some Degrees and Careers Match Up

You would think that every college degree, every major, is fine-tuned to prepare students to perform in a specific career, and much of the time you would be right. Accounting programs train accountants. Education programs train teachers. Dental assistant degree programs are hyper-focused on turning students into competent dental assistants.

Speaking of dental assistants, vocational degree programs tend to be very focused on giving students the practical skills they need to perform one job and one job only.

In many ways, students in these degree programs are the lucky ones. They never have that world-shaking experience of sitting down a week after graduation and asking, “Now what do I do with this degree?”

Everything is pretty clear-cut for them. If you fall into this category, congratulations. If not, well…

Some Degrees and Careers Don’t Connect

English. History. Philosophy. Mathematics. Organic Chemistry. These are just a few of the college degrees that fall on the more vague side of things. Speaking as an English major, I can tell you that there aren’t any job openings out there for English experts. Our program trained students to be editors, English teachers, or just to appreciate British Literature from the 18th Century, but the path was nearly as clear-cut as the finance guys down the hall.

Does that mean these college degrees should be avoided? Not at all. These degrees can be a gateway to certain related career opportunities.

Say you want to be a lawyer, for instance. Well, I hate to disappoint you, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find any college that has an undergraduate degree in Law. So how do students transition into careers as lawyers? They get degrees in English, History, sometimes Business and then they apply to law school after graduation. Those degrees may not be strictly about law, but they give students a solid enough foundation to do well in law school.

Where this all gets tricky is in knowing what each degree can lead to when it isn’t quite so obvious. Luckily, we have a few tips for you:

1. Know what career you want.

It is important that you know at this point what career you want to end up in. If not, you should’ve at least narrowed it down to two or three. If you don’t know where you want to end up, you’ll never find a suitable road to get there. Also, once you know what career you want, you might want to learn all about what skills and knowledge you’ll need to be successful in that career.

2. Know what each degree will teach you.

Don’t go on the name of a degree alone. Instead, dig into the degree program details. Find out what they will teach you and determine how well those skills and knowledge will align with the career you want. If it isn’t a close enough match, you might to consider looking into other degree programs.

3. Know what careers students in those degree programs are getting into.

“By their fruits ye shall know them.” It’s true of people and it’s true of degree programs. Most degree programs are built to produce a certain kind of student. Some education programs are built to pump out elementary ed teachers. Some engineering programs excel at minting civil engineers but not so much other kinds. Take note of this.

Rather than constantly going against the grain, you want the kind of degree program that is placing people in your desired career field.

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