Best College Majors for The Real World


Find out which degree programs could help prepare you for real-world situations when pursuing your desired career.

By Chris Kyle    

Are you thinking about going to college? Want to make sure you pick a degree that you can take with you to the real world?

Sounds like you may need to do a reality check on which degree program offers the career-minded approach that you crave.

To help, we've spotlighted five college majors with elements that offer a taste of what you can expect in the real world.

Keep reading to see how these degrees offer practical experiences that savvy students can turn into professional advantages...

Degree #1 - Nursing

Interested in pursuing a hands-on career in registered nursing? Though it helps to be caring and compassionate, you'll need real-world academics to prepare for the gig, too. That's where a nursing associate's degree program could come in handy.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, earning an associate's degree in nursing is one of the most common ways to prepare for a registered nursing career, which can come with more responsibility than, say, a licensed practical or vocational nurse. In addition to a degree, you usually need to complete a national licensing exam.

Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.

Real-World Features: "All nursing education programs include classroom instruction and supervised clinical experience in hospitals and other health care facilities," according to Department of Labor.

This practical, hands-on approach complements the academic preparation you'll usually find in most nursing degree programs, which could include courses like anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, and psychology, the Department adds.

Degree #2 - Education

Education may sound like a broad degree choice but it's actually a specific subject area that requires a very specific kind of preparation, which can be ideal if you want to get into teaching.

A bachelor's degree, at a minimum, is needed to get started as a teacher, and some roles may have certification or license requirements. Requirements differ by state, but many public school teachers have a bachelor's degree in addition to a license, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Education Program.

Real-World Features: While education degree programs can vary depending upon the school, it's likely that you'll spend some time as a student teacher - a valuable experience to have if that's the career you want to pursue.

"Before you graduate, you'll step into the classroom to try out your own lesson plans and classroom management techniques on real, live kids," according to the College Board, a nonprofit educational organization that administers tests like the SAT.

Degree curriculum generally covers topics such as educational psychology, school health and safety issues, and the planning of classroom activities, according to the College Board.

Degree #3 - Business Administration

Looking to get ahead in the business world? You may want to maximize your business-minded toolkit by earning a master's in business administration (MBA).

According to a May 2011 report by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the current job outlook for MBA students appears to be improving. Overall, 57 percent of full-time MBA students had job offers by mid-March, compared with 40 percent a year earlier, the report found.

In fact, more than three-quarters of MBA grads said that their MBA degree was "essential" for obtaining their first job after graduation, according to GMAC's 2011 Alumni Perspectives Survey.

Click to Find the Right MBA Program.

Real-World Features: Want to move into management? Many programs offer management specializations. Or perhaps you'd like to concentrate on a specific industry or career, like technology, health care, or marketing.

An MBA program can hone your business skill set through courses in business law, management, economics, finances, and accounting, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The College Board says that MBA students can experience real-life situations through hands-on learning when examining case studies and defending their solutions to business issues.

Degree #4 -Dental Assisting

Are you interested in preparing for a hands-on career with a healthy mix of administrative and clinical responsibilities?

Dental assistants can easily move between both worlds - and it's a career that you can prepare for in as little as two years by earning an associate's degree, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Dental Assisting Program.

Real-World Features: Dental assisting programs usually teach practical on-the-job skills like how to perform X-rays and how to take whole-mouth impressions, according to the College Board. "Sterilizing instruments, setting up patient trays, and medical record keeping are also part of the program," the College Board says.

The Department of Labor adds: "as dental technology changes, dental assistants need to stay familiar with the instruments and procedures that they will be using or helping dentists to use."

Degree #5 - Psychology

A textbook alone won't help you unlock the secrets of the human condition. You're going to need to interact with people, as well, and that's where a bachelor's degree program in psychology can be of assistance.

This bachelor's program could prepare you to pursue a variety of careers in different fields, including marketing and public relations - as well as counseling.

Click to Find the Right Psychology Program.

Real World Features: Besides taking lecture courses and smaller advanced seminars, "don't be surprised if you play the part of human guinea pig in a research study," according to the College Board.

In addition to lab work, many psychology programs usually encourage students get more hands-on experience "as an intern at a shelter, prison, special-education classroom, or another site," the College Board says.

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