Is A Career-Focused Degree For You?


Check out these focused degrees.

By Chris Kyle

Want to build valuable skills? Consider earning a focused degree.

According to a 2011 study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, career-relevant education may have certain benefits.

The Harvard study, "Pathways to Prosperity", found that today's top career and technical education programs "do a better job of preparing many students for college and career than traditional academics-only programs."

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Check out these career-oriented degree options.

#1: Associate's Degree in Paralegal Studies

According to the Department of Labor, an associate's degree in paralegal studies is one of the most common ways that people enter the occupation. Most programs provide instruction on career-relevant topics, including contracts, legal research, and bankruptcy law. If you already have a bachelor's degree, another focused option is the paralegal certificate.

Average Earning Potential and Career Growth:* Paralegals have an average yearly wage of $50,080, says the Department of Labor, which forecasts a 28 percent growth in employment opportunities through 2018.

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#2: Associate's Degree in Medical Assisting

While there are no requirements for getting into medical assisting, the U.S. Department of Labor notes that formal preparation is usually preferred by employers. One option is the associate's degree in medical assisting program, where you could learn about the latest immunizations, and perform lab tests.

Average Earning Potential and Career Growth:* Based on data from the Department of Labor, medical assistants have an average yearly wage of $29,450. As for job growth, the Department projects a 34 percent increase in employment opportunities for medical assistants through 2018.

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#3: Bachelor's Degree in Education

Getting a bachelor's degree in education could help you prepare to transition into an administrative role, or, if you prefer, a teaching role. Education degree programs could practical team-building and teaching techniques, as well as curriculum preparation and online education.

Average Earning Potential and Career Growth:* Education administrators have an average annual wage of $87,390, according to the Department of Labor. A 2010 study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that education will face a serious shortage of qualified workers with degrees in 2018, second behind only health care.

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#4: Associate's Degree in Nursing

Earning an associate's degree in nursing could help you qualify for one of the fastest growing careers around - registered nursing. This program generally encourages students to build hands-on skills and provides instruction on how to administer medications and assess a patient's condition.

Average Earning Potential and Career Growth:* Registered nurses have an average yearly wage of $66,530, according to the Department of Labor. "Openings for registered nurses and health technologists - positions that typically require an associate's degree - are expected to grow by more than 1 million by 2018," the Harvard study said.

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#5: Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

Earning a bachelor's degree in computer science could be a great way to jump aboard the technology train. Depending on the program you choose, curriculum might include helpful courses like software design and data structure - both subjects that could help as you prepare to pursue work as a network systems analyst or computer software engineer, to use just two examples.

Average Earning Potential and Career Growth:* Computer software engineers in applications have a mean annual wage of $90,170. The Department of Labor shows that employment for software engineers and programmers is expected to grow 32 percent through 2018.

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*All earning potential information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor and refers to May 2009 salary data. "Education administrator" pay is based upon elementary and secondary school administrator salary information.

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