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How to Choose a Major as an Adult Student

Ana-Marcela Lopez / Abound: Finish College »

Going back to school as an adult is pretty common these days. In fact, according to the National Student Clearinghouse, one in three college students starts their education after they turn 25 years old, while one in five begins theirs after they turn 30. One of the reasons adults decide to go back to school is today’s rapidly advancing technology. For example, careers in computer and information technology are expected to grow 13 percent from 2020 to 2030, resulting in the addition of more than 600,000 jobs.

Whether you want to stay up to date with new subjects, change careers, or enhance your résumé to raise your earning potential, returning to school may be one of the best options for you. Starting college as a non-traditional student may have its challenges, but it also has a great number of advantages. Ready to make your move and apply? Read on as we’ll talk about the most important things you need to consider while researching what field of study you want to advance in and which university to choose.

Finding the Right Degree as an Adult Learner

As an adult, you may already have a good amount of work experience and skills that can help you as a student. You have a better understanding of your career goals as well as the ways in which you do your best work. As you narrow your options down for your major, ask yourself these guiding questions:

1. What is my motivation for going back to school?

The best way to find the right college major is to assess your objectives. For example, if you’re looking to advance your career in your current field, you might consider a program related to your job that also has plenty of networking opportunities in the field and/or a fast track to a master’s program. A bachelor’s degree is ideal for those looking to learn something new before venturing into a new career. Or, if you simply want to learn more about a subject you’re passionate about, a certificate program would be a cost-effective option that doesn’t result in a full bachelor’s degree.

After assessing your motivations, the next step is to think about the type of program that will set you up for success. Every school has its own unique approach to education in each field, so do some research to see which universities offer particular courses, internships, or research opportunities that are ideal for what you want out of your degree. Likewise, you can also read up on schools’ alumni employment statistics to feel more confident about your outcomes after graduation.

2. What else do I need to reach my goals?

The next step is to ask yourself if there is a need to complete another program after college. For example, if you’re looking to become a CPA, there will be a need to take a CPA exam. You may need to enroll in refresher courses for this and spend more time in school to help you achieve the best result. If you’re uncertain about what else you need to accomplish, look for these jobs online to help you determine what requirements or qualifications are required. 

3. What are your work experiences?

If your goal is to widen your skill sets and increase your earnings potential, consider getting a degree related to your current or previous jobs. List all of your work experiences and include relevant details about each job. Think about what you enjoy about your previous jobs and if you’re willing to go the extra mile to become an industry expert. 

For example, a two-year work experience in digital marketing plus a degree in graphic design or internet marketing can strengthen your resume and open new career opportunities. 

Take time to think about how you want to move forward with your current career. It’s crucial that you also align your decision to your future goals.

Take Time to Research

Going to college is expensive, so make sure that you can get your return on investment after you graduate. As soon as you have decided on a field of study, the next step is to determine the tuition cost and how long it would take you to complete the degree or program. You need to also know the kind of commitment the college degree needs and whether there are licensure examinations after. You may want to also consider looking for internship opportunities or special scholarships for your chosen course. 

Most importantly, research the school you plan to enroll in. Are you able to take classes while also working? Are the programs only offered on campus, or is online learning also available? You may want to also dig deeper by checking the university’s graduation rates and alumni success stories. Don’t ignore red flags like low graduation rates, as that could signify problems with the school’s program, instruction method or faculty.

Never rush when choosing a college major and which school to enroll in. Take your time to help you make an informed decision.

Getting Financial Aid

The cost is one of the things to consider when choosing a college major. Keep in mind that you also will need additional expenses like materials and books. You may be earning each month, but this can be stressful when you have other financial obligations like mortgage payments or child care. 

To help you decide, find out if there might be financial aid, tuition payment plans, and other discount programs you can take advantage of. If you’re going to graduate school, the university may be able to transfer credits from your previous course and even from professional experience.

Commit to Your Goal

Once you’ve decided on a college major and which university to attend, the next step is to prepare for your new endeavor. Depending on your field of study, you may need to spend nights studying or working on your thesis. Please make sure you can commit to all of these, and you’ll be successful in college. Are you ready to go back to school? Start looking for the right school for your degree!

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