Making the Decision to Get Your College Degree

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Going to college is a big commitment and the whole idea can be a bit overwhelming. It seems that college degrees are becoming more and more essential for career development--but there are still lots of jobs out there that call for different kinds of career training, like industry-specific certifications or hands-on training. Consider the following factors when deciding whether to make the leap into higher education.

Make Progress Toward Your Career Goals

Until fairly recently, most employers required little more than a high school diploma for most jobs. With major economic shifts, especially in the retail and the manufacturing sectors, the number of entry-level jobs for people without college degrees is dwindling.

Large employers have scaled back their internal training and development programs, relying instead on colleges and universities that can handle those tasks more efficiently (including online degree programs that allow employees to earn degrees without missing work). Though a growing number of businesses provide their employees with tuition reimbursement programs to cover the cost of ongoing training, most job seekers competing for entry-level positions must invest in their own professional development.

Therefore, to compete effectively in today's job market, a college degree is an essential tool that can assure potential employers that you have the basic skills to handle new assignments. By enrolling in an accredited degree program, you can prove your skills with a solid educational record.

Many companies also look at the transcripts of potential hires to determine how "trainable" they are for new projects and assignments. In many cases, hiring officers may not be so concerned with the overall grade point average earned by an applicant. Instead, they want to see a track record of challenging courses that reflects a candidate's willingness to stretch themselves beyond their previous limits.

Earning a Degree Is a Major Personal Achievement

While the number of colleges and universities in North America has exploded in the past few decades, the sense of personal achievement from earning a college degree has not diminished. Becoming the first member of a family to graduate from college is still a tremendous honor, one that rewards parents for raising dedicated children while inspiring siblings and other family members to pursue their own dreams.

College is one of the few times in life where we can learn from failure without fear of life-altering consequences. By challenging ourselves to work hard, to overcome bad results, and to achieve high scores on assignments, we can prepare ourselves for the realities of the professional world.

After centuries of pomp and circumstance, we have still not grown tired of celebrating our own achievements at the conclusion of a college degree program. Once you have earned the right to hang a college diploma on your wall, you'll be ready to set your sights even higher. Whether you pursue advanced degrees or an exciting career, you will want to attain that same kind of personal achievement in your life again and again.

Do I Have the Time and the Money for a College Degree?

Too many talented individuals pass up the opportunity to attend college each year because they assume that they have neither the time nor the money for a degree program. In reality, flexible enrollment policies, innovative course delivery methods, and generous financial aid packages allow nearly anyone to attend college.

Flexible Study Options: Online College Classes

New technology is opening up higher education to even more potential students than ever before. Many students may be caring for children or elderly parents. Caregiving situations can make a college degree seem almost impossible to attain. Though many students still pursue bachelor's degrees on traditional campuses, the number of students taking online college courses has skyrocketed in recent years.

Online degree programs make it possible to participate in college classes from any Internet-connected computer. You can view classroom lectures in real time via streaming video, or you can save those classes to review them at your convenience. Pause them in the middle when you have to feed your child, or download them to an MP3 player and listen to lectures while you exercise. Instead of traveling to a physical campus, you can shave hours off your day by joining online discussions with faculty members and other students. Even if you don't have a computer at home, many distance learning programs let you participate by reading textbooks and watching videos that arrive by regular mail.

Are Online Universities and Community Colleges as Good as Traditional Schools?

As large universities open up extension campuses (and offer online college classes), community colleges and technical schools continue to grow throughout the United States. While an Ivy League diploma may seem to carry significant weight in the job market, many smaller schools use the exact same course materials and teaching methods - with far lower tuition bills. In most cases, you can continue to live at home and even work a job while pursuing your bachelor's degree. If you are interested in online degree programs, be sure that the online college you choose is accredited (if it's not, your degree will be worthless). Note: WorldWideLearn features only accredited schools.

If you want to launch your specialized career sooner, you can gain essential skills in an associate's degree program. After leveraging your new skills into an entry-level position, you might take advantage of a company-sponsored tuition reimbursement program to transfer your credits to a bachelor's degree. Even if your company does not foot the bill, you can continue your education part-time to position yourself for even better opportunities later in your career.

Finding the Funds for a College Degree

Economic concerns need not prevent you from entering the degree program of your choice. Depending on your income level and your field of study, you may qualify for scholarships and grants that could even eliminate the cost of attending college. For example, many teacher trainees who agree to work for a few years in underserved areas can qualify to have their student loans forgiven by the federal government or paid for by their state.

If you don't necessarily qualify for a free ride, you can still postpone the cost of your college education by participating in federal student loan programs. You might even qualify for a program that pays or defers the interest on your loan until later in your career, when you can convert your new skills into a higher paying job. And don't discount vocational and technical schools, if that's where your interest lies.

Certification and Hiring Issues

A college education can be your first step in pursuing your career goals

As all kinds of employers work to comply with changing government regulations and industry practices, many jobs now require some form of independent certification or licensure. In many cases, a college diploma serves as all or part of the certification necessary to apply for an entry-level position in a new field. For specialists that require more advanced licenses or certificates, a college degree or career diploma might be the first step in a process that includes apprenticeships or other work experience.

While many employers still appreciate the "street smarts" of a worker who has learned a skill on the job, most hiring officers prefer to hire college graduates. If you already work in your chosen field, an associate degree or certificate program can provide you with the credentials you will need to continue to advance in your company. If you are considering breaking into a new career, a bachelor's degree puts you on even footing with most other candidates for open positions.

Education and Training Have Professional and Personal Benefits

While movies like Animal House and news reports of rambunctious college sports fans might promote the myth of college as a place to party, college students benefit from spending time with their peers in more ways than just having fun. Even students who take college courses online enjoy the benefits of building positive relationships with other students from around the world. The classmate with whom you collaborate on a project today could provide you with a valuable job lead later in your career.

Likewise, the power of alumni networks is no longer reserved for graduates of Ivy League institutions. Hiring officers tend to favor graduates of their own colleges and universities, simply because they understand the level of training candidates receive at their alma maters. Colleges and universities with strong reputations and notable alumni can provide the extra sparkle on your resume, helping you land an interview or even a job.

In addition, enrolling in a degree program -- online or on-campus -- can provide you with a great opportunity to build strong friendships and personal connections. In today's highly segmented society, the common bond of a degree program can help you develop social networks that you never knew existed.

In college, you'll meet many people that share your emotional and financial challenges, so you won't feel alone. In fact, you can bond tightly with fellow students of similar backgrounds to encourage and challenge each other. It's no wonder that so many college friends team up later in life as business partners or even as married couples.

With so many benefits and so little risk, the time has never been better for you to make the decision to go to college. Explore the links throughout our website to discover degree programs that meet your career goals, while fitting comfortably into your lifestyle. Get more information on the universities you're interested in, and be sure to ask about financial aid and flexible payment options.

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