Are You on the Right Academic Path for Your Career Goals?

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By Leia O’Connell, MSW
Contributor, Career Coach

Getting your degree is a crucial (and often necessary) step towards your ultimate professional goal. As you start down your degree path – do you have a clear sense of what it will look like at the end? Are you making assumptions about potential job opportunities or do you know for sure that the job you want requires the degree you’re enrolled in? Take out the guesswork and get a clear picture of where your degree might lead.

Start Looking At Job Roles Now

You don’t have to guess whether an employer might be looking for someone with a degree in a particular field. Go to Indeed.com (or another job search engine), explore job roles you’re interested in, and review the qualifications listed. Is your degree program a requirement? You can also write “Bachelor of Arts in Psychology” (or your specific degree) and see what jobs populate. Know what roles and organizations of interest are in your area; job roles and their requirements are ever-changing, but you can still start your research today.

Do not graduate and rely on luck: do your research, understand the qualifications for positions you wish to pursue, and start getting experience. As the saying goes, the harder you work, luckier you get!

LEIA O’CONNELL, CAREER COACH

Determine Whether Licensure or Certifications Are Required

This is a big one. If the job you’re interested in requires specific licensure, you need to be aware of the academic and professional steps you’ll need to take in order to obtain the license. This research should be done at the beginning of your program, not the end. Do not assume – know. If your state issues the license, look at their website AND call them to make sure you understand the requirements. I’ve worked with individuals who misunderstood information on their state-certification website because they didn’t call to confirm what they read.

Misunderstanding certification requirements can cost you time and money. Don’t start down the wrong path when the information is out there.

Start Gaining Practical Experience to Supplement Your Education

Enjoy your coursework? Great! How about hands-on experience? Remember, your degree is one piece of a large puzzle. Those qualifications you viewed when researching job roles will also illustrate professional experience needed. If you aren’t already working in your intended field, start volunteering, pursue an internship, or seek out an entry-level position. Down the road when you’ve graduated, you can tell a potential employer that you have not only the academic knowledge, but practical experience as well.

Do not graduate and rely on luck: do your research, understand the qualifications for positions you wish to pursue, and start getting experience. As the saying goes, the harder you work, luckier you get!

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