5 Strategic Tips for Choosing the Right Degree

Updated By Allie Cuno on April 30, 2020

Fortunate are those who've known since grade school what they wanted to be when they grew up. Then there's the rest of us.

If you've made the smart decision to pursue a college degree, congratulations. There still may be one decision left … which degree? If you are having a hard time deciding on a degree specialty, you're not alone. I've been there as well as countless others who've struggled to choose the right degree path. It's a huge decision, so much so that you may have considered delaying your education. Don't put off fulfilling your dream and don't despair. Help is out there.

Below are some tips to help you choose the right degree that could lead to a personally rewarding career:

  1. Consider subjects you love.
  2. Take time to contemplate on the subjects that most interested you in school. If you received high marks in that subject, even better, because not only do you have a passion for the subject, you may naturally have a high aptitude for that course of study.

  3. Do your research.
  4. Once you have targeted your area(s) of interest, go online to see what careers are available in that field. Consider the pay, the potential demand for workers, future trends, etc. The internet has done the bulk of the homework for you, such as The Princeton Review [LINK:], which has compiled a list of the best college majors based on research. It covers job prospects, alumni salaries, and popularity. The more you know, the more confident you'll feel with the decision you make.

  5. Consider your personality.
  6. Are you a social butterfly or a loner? Do you love helping people? Are you mathematically inclined or do you gravitate toward the arts? Consider what makes you tick, then search online for careers that match your personality. You can even go one step further and take a personality test. A personality test will not necessarily predict whether you have the natural skills or aptitude for a certain specialty; however, it can help you pinpoint the areas you would tend to find most rewarding. Look for personality assessments that ask a lot of questions and are delivered by a reputable source. Here's one personality test to get you started.

  7. Consider your situation, goals, and values.
  8. If you choose a major based on your core values, it will oftentimes lead to a field you find rewarding. For example, if you love helping people, a degree in healthcare may be a great fit. Also consider your situation and determination. If four years of nursing school seems overwhelming, perhaps an Associate's degree in medical assisting may be a better fit. Next, consider your situation. For example, do you have little ones and prefer a career with more flexibility? Consider a degree in graphic arts where you have the freelance option to work from home. You get the picture. Know your goals, lifestyle, determination, and limits, and plan accordingly.

  9. Talk to a professional in your field of interest.
  10. There is risk in idealizing your field of interest, so find out what it's really like from those who've walked the walk. In the past, I considered making a career change to interior design. It had that sparkle of glamour and creativity that intrigued me. Lucky for me, I met with an interior design professional who brought me back to earth. While there was an element of creativity, most of her days were littered with tedious paperwork, phone calls with tough clients, delayed orders, and a list of other duties that were far from glamourous. Thanks to this designer, I remained in my current profession which provides me with far more creativity and expression.

If you are still paralyzed with fear at making the wrong degree choice, consider this: About 80 percent of students in the United States end up changing their major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.* So if you decide to change your degree program midstream, guess what? You're normal. It's also nice to know that many of the general education courses you take just may transfer over to your new major.

Last, having a degree, any degree, speaks volumes about you! It shows your determination, perseverance, and your innate desire to improve yourself. For a future employer, what's not to love? Many graduates have found rewarding careers outside of their degree specialty. Just having a degree—period—helped them land the job.

So put your fears to rest and put these tips to work in finding the right degree program for you. I wish you all the best in your search!

At Independence University, we offer career-focused degree programs—from Associate's to Master's—earned 100% online with 24/7 anytime, anywhere flexibility. From healthcare and business to IT and graphic arts, we are eager to assist in finding the right degree program for YOU! Call 800-917-6369 today to learn more.

Allie Cuno is a human-interest writer for Center for Excellence in Higher Education (CEHE).