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How college career centers can save you time and money, and even help you get a better degree

By Bob King from February 2014 Issue

How college career centers can save you time and money, and even help you get a better degree

Credit: Council on Postsecondary Education

Bob King, President, Council on Postsecondary Education

Congratulations to the thousands of students across the Commonwealth who are choosing to go to college. Whether they will be graduating from high school in May or are returning adult learners, earning a college degree is an important decision that will reap many positive benefits in terms of career options, higher earnings, employability, and quality of life.

Navigating career options and determining which careers will be in demand are often difficult decisions. But there is help available through the career centers at colleges and universities. Career services staff can help guide students in their exploration of majors and career paths, with the end goal of students selecting a field that best fits their interest and goals. Staff members might encourage students to take a variety of classes, offer assessments to reveal their unique strengths, and provide networking opportunities with potential employers.

A liberal arts education helps students narrow down their interests by exposing them to a wide range of subjects. These classes often teach critical skills, such as clear communication and critical thinking, which are valuable in every career, as well as introducing potential fields of interest. Each student will respond differently to these classes. By pairing these responses with the results of personality assessments, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, counselors may be able to suggest specific majors and careers for students to consider.

Staff can also help students choose high-demand and high-paying majors and careers by tracking job-market trends. STEM+H degrees (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and health) are just several of the degree choices that are extremely valuable in today's job market and will be in the future. Counselors may also point out some majors that have few or low-paying career paths.

Committing to a major quickly can help students and families pay less for a degree. Students who are unsure of their future plans may change their major several times, delaying graduation. By selecting a major early and completing at least 15 hours of college credit per semester, or 30 a year, students can complete a bachelor's degree in four years or an associate's degree in two, and avoid costs for additional semesters.

Once a student has selected a major, counselors can help with the exploration of careers. Many centers sponsor networking events for students to meet and form relationships with leaders in their future fields. These centers are also a valuable source of internship opportunities. Internships, some of which offer college credit, give students real-world experience in occupations related to their majors, which should help them further narrow down the range of career possibilities.

In today's economy, it is extremely important for students to explore career options sooner and gain an understanding of how their career will fit with current and future work force needs. Career services staff can provide useful information to help students choose majors and career paths that match their interests while building Kentucky's high-skilled work force essential to state and regional economic growth.