Degrees and Careers

We believe that the college-going process begins with students exploring their interests. This will help guide them toward a degree that excites them, which will lead to a rewarding career. Other factors to consider are salary expectations, career demand, level of education, cost, and skills required.

Students can explore different degrees and careers while pursuing a higher education; however, we encourage students to get started in the ninth grade by identifying their interests and getting involved in extracurricular activities. We also recommend students do research on the degree and career options that best align with their passions.

Here is information on the degree options available at a college or university and resources to explore careers:

Degree Options

Higher education institutions will offer certificate programs that heavily focus on the skills of a career. This option may provide a pathway to an entry-level position in a field or be part of the continuing education of a professional.  

Like certificate programs, associate degrees can prepare students for an entry-level position in a field. However, associate degrees are usually earned as a stepping-stone for students in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Associate degrees include a general post-secondary education with a few specialized classes. Students may or may not need an associate degree to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Students pursuing an associate degree full-time can expect to earn their degree in about two years.  

In the U.S., the number of jobs that require a bachelor’s degree only keeps growing. In fact, most students will pursue a bachelor’s degree when working toward a higher education at a college or university. On average, individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher earn more and experience less unemployment than those with a high school diploma or less.  

Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree full-time can expect to earn their degree in about four years. 

Master’s degrees are advanced degrees offered via a graduate program at a college or university. Students may pursue a master’s degree to gain a deeper understanding of a particular field or, like with an associate degree, to use as a stepping-stone for a doctoral degree.  

Students pursuing a master’s degree full-time can expect to study an additional two years after graduating with a bachelor’s degree.  

Doctoral degrees are the highest level of academic degree programs. They are also known as graduate degrees if research based or professional degrees for careers that require practical application (e.g., medicine and law). Doctoral degrees require a serious commitment to a specific area of study as it requires many years to earn this type of degree.  

Students pursuing a research-based doctoral degree full-time generally spend five to six years in a program of study. Professional degrees vary in time frame as each profession has different requirements to practice in the field.  

Career Exploration Resources

CareerOne Stop

Powered by the U.S. Department of Labor, CareerOne Stop provides information on careers, training, and jobs. They also offer a self-assessment to determine career options based on interests.


CollegeBoard is a national non-profit organization that focuses on college access. One of its resources outlines majors and careers by field.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Established in 1884, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics measures labor market activity, working conditions, price changes, and productivity which makes for a great resource on career trends.

U.S. News & World Report

The U.S. News & World Report is known for its rankings on jobs based on the top 100, industry, and pay. Explore job profiles to learn about the education required and level of job satisfaction in the field.

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