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Queens Chronicle

Going back to school? Tips to choose the right degree

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Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 1:00 am | Updated: 4:34 am, Sat Aug 9, 2014.

(BPT) - For many, earning a college degree opened the door to the working world; it may have even been instrumental in landing your current job. But are you applying what you learned in college to your current career field? A recent survey suggests this might not be the case.

Only 35 percent of college-educated workers consider all or most of what they learned in college to be applicable to their current jobs, according to a survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix.

Today, many working adults are returning to college to either complete a degree that better aligns with the skills required for their current job or earn a second degree to gain additional experience for a potential career change. The National Center for Education Statistics reports an estimated 8.7 million adults over the age of 25 were planning to enroll in college in 2013, up nearly 37 percent from 2000.

“There is significant progress being made in higher education to adapt to the needs of the employment market and tie curriculum to careers earlier in a student’s education,” says University of Phoenix School of Business Executive Dean Ruth Veloria. “It is critical to choose the right degree program so you know the knowledge you glean from coursework can be applied to the career you desire.”

Veloria offers these tips to help you get the most out of your educational experience:

* Research degree programs with a career in mind – Don’t wait until you are enrolled in college to determine your career path. Research specific positions, develop learning plans with an academic advisor and take career and skills assessments. Phoenix Career Guidance System is designed to help any student – from those just starting to those looking to advance their careers – research jobs related to different degree programs and discover which fields best fit their interests and personalities.

* Go straight to the source - If you know someone currently working in the career field in which you are interested, schedule an informational interview to learn more about the skills and experience required for that line of work. Don’t know anyone? Veloria recommends joining industry associations and attending networking events as a way to make new contacts and learn more about a new career field or job.

* Communicate with your boss – Your return to school will most likely benefit your company, so share your education plans with your boss, including how your classroom learning can benefit colleagues and special projects in the workplace. If your manager feels invested in your goals, it could be a source of support and motivation for you. Additionally, contact your human resources department to see if the company offers education reimbursement benefits to help pay for school.

* Consider certificate programs that lead to a degree – Many working adults balance school with workplace and family priorities, so it can take additional time to earn a college degree. University of Phoenix offers a certificate option that allows you to move core courses toward the front of your degree program. This program allows you to earn certificates along the way to degree completion to help you gain the knowledge needed to elevate your career.

“Researching and planning the education path you need to achieve your career goals is very important,” says Veloria. “You want to know that the skills you learn in college are the skills you need to advance your career to the next level.”

Welcome to the discussion.