It seems that the highest paying jobs on the market are those that require advanced education. Decades ago, it was your experience and the recommendation of a current employee that could help get your foot in the door. Now, in addition to that, many employers are also specialized certificates, training, or higher education degrees. These requirements might sound ridiculous in some areas of operations, but considering the continual changes to technology, equipment, software, and safety standards, it makes complete sense to have candidates that are the most knowledgeable and widely-trained on the team. If you are in a panic because you don’t think your education is going to get you the job you want, don’t give up just yet. There are several ways you can further your education without completely disrupting the life you currently lead.
- Basic High School Diploma
At the very least, most employers will require a high school diploma. For employers, the trends with high school graduates are looking good. The latest census shows that 90% of Americans over the age of 25 have earned their diplomas. For the other ten percent, there is always the option to earn a GED. This route allows adults to take classes, generally through a local community center or college and often times at no charge, and then take a comprehensive general education competency test which acts as the equivalent of a high school diploma. This is sometimes necessary for students who have had to drop of traditional high school attendance for illness or other conditions.
- Certificate Programs
There are some fields of study where technical training is the primary focus of the curriculum. These programs are often called certificate programs. They can deal with something specific like software or process, such as working to earn a six sigma certification, or they can be for hands-on skills like cosmetology, heating and air repair, childhood development associate, or even accounting. Certificate programs can range in length and can be found in community colleges or through online institutions. The cost of the program will depend on the institution, the number of credit hours required, the cost of licensing or certification fees, and incidentals like books or other equipment.
- Associate Degree
Two-year degrees are like an introduction to a potential bachelor's degree in a specific field of study. The bulk of the credit hours in this degree help earn the general education credits required if you were to go on and complete a bachelor level program. An associate degree allows you to get a taste of the topic you are interested in, preparing you for a more immersive experience with a bachelor's program. These programs can also be found through local colleges, four-year institutions, and online programs from a variety of higher education institutions.
- Bachelor Degree
The data is showing that more Americans are pursuing higher education than ever before, with over a third of Americans having a college degree. Many of the professional positions open in the job force require a bachelor-level degree, as this indicates four years of in-depth training and experience in a specific discipline. Some programs require internships for more hands-on learning and exposure, and these are usually required to be completed at the local level. Online institutions are a popular and usually affordable choice for college, although most states have entire networks of both public and private higher education institutions.
- Graduate School
If you really want to be at the top of your field, graduate school is the way to go. You can pursue a master's or doctorate degree, but they must come in that order. These programs offer the most rigorous and intensive studies into the specialty of your choice. They are not for the faint of heart nor are they cost-friendly. It can be beneficial to find an employer in the field of your undergraduate work and pursue a tuition reimbursement plan if you are able to qualify for graduate school.
Higher education is accessible through local, state level, and online options. You are more likely to get the job of your dreams if you have the right credentials behind your name.