When making this decision, consider your current career path, future job markets, timeline, and flexibility. Here are a few questions you need to answer before you select a degree:
- Do you want to continue on your current career path?
- Does your current career match the future job market?
- Do you want the quickest path to a degree?
- Do you want a specific degree or a degree that leaves your options open?
- What degree level do you want? Associate's, bachelor's, or master's ?
Most degrees fall under one of the following areas of study:
- Computer Science
- Health Care or Medical
- Criminal Justice
- Business Administration
- Liberal Arts - Math, Science, English, Etc.
- Psychology / Social and Human Services
These degree areas can be further narrowed down to very specific areas of concentration. Having pre-determined career goals can help make choosing your degree a simple process.
Tip: Career counselors and Education Service Officers can help you make the career choice that matches your skills and interests by giving you a career skills and interest assessment. This will help you focus on the career options that match your experience, skills, and personal interests. Active duty and reserve servicemembers can contact their local education service office or career counselor for details. Veterans can get this counseling and employment assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Your Current Career
If you plan to stick to your current career path, you simply need to figure out which degree is most in line with your career. Since your military experience can be translated into college credit toward your degree, this option can also help you get your degree faster.
Information is available through many sources including your education service office, VA, and school admissions counselors.
Future Career Opportunities
Although factoring future job growth into your degree choice may mean taking more classes, which in turn will increase your time and expense, it is well worth the effort. In fact combining your personal interests with the forecasted job market is a sure way to make the most of your education benefits.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor the future top career fields include:
- Computer Engineering, Network Management and Support
- Health Care Professions
- Education (Both K-12 and Higher Education).
- Human Resource and Social Work
- Environmental/Hazardous Material Management
Fast and Flexible
If the focus of your degree is less important than the timing, consider a degree that allows you to use your military experience (free electives) and credit-by-exams (CLEP). Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees are often the most liberal when it comes to using your military experience and CLEPs.
Some degrees are more flexible than others; for instance, Business Administration degrees are often the fastest and most flexible. In addition, a degree in Business Administration can be as narrow or broadly focused as you like, and nearly every college offers business degree programs.
It is important to select your degree level, but it's not critical. You don't have to have an associate's (lower level) degree before you go after your bachelor's. In fact, in most cases it saves you time and effort to focus on your bachelor's degree first.
Next Step: Find the Right Military Friendly School