Best College Degrees & Majors Guide

Top Associate, Bachelor's & Master's Degree Programs, Careers and Salary Options

What Field and Degree are You Interested In?


For some students, there is an easy answer to the choice of career and field of study. It may be a life-long wish formed in early childhood or the profession that is a family tradition. For most students, the choice of field and career is not simple. Selecting a career and field of study should involve careful thought. The best way to make the choice is to put some time and effort into the process. This can increase your chance of making a great choice and finding a satisfying and rewarding career.

There are many choices for fields and careers. In terms of popularity, computers and technology rank near the top as does Healthcare and related fields. Education and Social services have a middle rank along with the Arts and Communications. Science is in the top ten along with the business fields. The vocational trades and transportation also form a significant part of the top career fields.

Degrees & Career Paths


degree_successful_career

Components of A Successful Career

  • Adaptability
    Change is the consistent theme of the information age, and successful careers have the capacity to welcome and adapt to technological change and innovations. Adaptability includes the ability to join in the sharp or gradual transformations that constantly occur in typical work environments.

  • Creativity and Imagination
    Successful careers require the ability to think creatively and use your imagination. In many fields of study, success depends on developing new ideas and fresh concepts. Successful careers include the risk of trying and failing but learning in the process. Creativity involves the traits of resilience and persistence.

  • Critical Thinking
    Problem-solving is an important attribute. Successful careers involve taking in the challenges of the field of study or workplace and striving to make significant contributions. Critical thinking uses logic, independent thinking, and strong analytical senses to develop ideas and concepts.

  • Communications Skills
    Communication skills include an ability to exchange ideas both in writing and in oral forms. Communications are a key attribute for success, and it also involves the ability to listen and absorb information, points of view, and sound arguments.

  • Interpersonal Relationships
    Success in any career benefits from a positive approach and willingness to work as leaders or followers. In the modern corporation and the high-technology workplace, being able to relate to everyone in the building is a must.

How to Earn Your Degree


  • Select fields that hold your interest and mesh with your skills and abilities
  • Research majors that support that field/career
  • Research accredited schools that offer the field and major
  • Select one or more that suit your needs and preferences for on-campus, online, or hybrid attendance
  • Apply for admission
  • Apply for student aid

What is the difference between Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid Classes?

degree_campus_vs_on_campus_vs_hybrid_classes Campus learning is synchronous learning, in which students gather at the same time and place to participate in classroom work. Campus learning centers around a physical campus and students must either live on or near the campus or commute to their lessons. It does have many advantages. Students can live in a community of scholars and interact with faculty and other students through face-to-face interactions. Students learn valuable socialization skills. However, campus learning typically requires students to leave their homes, jobs, and families to attend school. This may not be practical for people that work or have other important obligations that require their presence.

Online attendance makes education accessible to millions of people that either cannot, or prefer not to, attend classes on a physical campus. Online education permits full or part-time attendance for working people, business people, and persons that for various reasons cannot attend on -campus. Online learning is asynchronous, meaning that students learn individually and at different times. Online education provides flexibility; students can access class content on their schedules rather than on the school’s schedule.

The hybrid method combines on-campus courses and online coursework into a custom or school-made program. Some students may prefer to take as many courses as possible online and attend on-campus classes only as required. Other students may prefer to attend on-campus classes except for the times or courses that they cannot fit into their schedule. The hybrid approach accommodates many types of student situations.

Typical Degree Requirements

The below-listed items provide an overview of typical degree requirements:

Associate degrees require approximately 60-65 semester credit hours. Students can complete the degree in two to three years.

Bachelor’s degrees typically require 120-125 semester hours and students can complete the curriculum in four to five years. The typical online experience in four to six or more years because many students attend part-time while managing full or part-time jobs, businesses, or other obligations.

The master’s degree requires a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree. In addition to the pre-requisite level of education, the master’s curriculum requires 30-36 hours of coursework and a dissertation or capstone project.

Academic Standards

Associate and bachelor’s programs accept high school graduates or GED diploma holders. However, they may apply other academic standards to the admission process as well. The college and major you choose can require completion of the SAT or ACT exams and may have a minimum score necessary for entry. Once you are in the program, you are often required to maintain a certain average GPA (grade point average) in order to remain. Colleges and universities sometimes make use of academic probation or suspensions in order to make sure the students in their programs are dedicated to learning.

Potential Exam/Experience Needed

degree_potential_exam_experience_needed Many schools and majors require admissions testing for undergraduate and graduate school admissions. Undergraduate admissions typically ask for the SAT or ACT to rate students on learning potential, and efficiency in reading, science, and math. In a similar way, graduate schools require general or specialized tests. Some schools do not require them, and many schools have procedures that can waive the exam in cases of substantial life or work experience.

Some fields of study also value experience. Nursing is an example, as is teaching, of a field in which various levels of education require hands-on experience as either a prerequisite or a learning mechanism.

Important Questions to Ask


How long does it take to earn a degree online vs. on-campus?


The time required for online completion of a degree and on-campus should be about equal at most schools for most students. The standard for a four-year degree is eight semesters whether online or on-campus. Some online schools appeal to students by offering accelerated course curricula. Accelerated curricula condenses the requirements into fewer courses to speed up graduation. Many students can accelerate graduation by attending online, but this requires a much heavier than usual credit-load.

  • Online attendance can avoid scheduling bottlenecks. Students may find on-campus classes unavailable, and that can cause additional semesters of attendance.
  • Online classes in the summer months can help online and/or traditional students accelerate graduation.
  • Online students can take a full course load of 15 semester hours when they have time and resources available. The lower typical costs of semester hours online, as opposed to on-campus rates, can help students take more courses.

How much does an online Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s degree cost?


The average cost of an associate degree online is about $4,500
The cost of an online bachelor’s degree is about $12,000
The average cost of an online master’s degree is approximately $7,500

Does the school have the major(s) you’re considering?


University HQ recommends that students carefully consider the available college majors at any school they may select. The college major and related coursework will affect your level of preparedness upon graduation. Students should look carefully at coursework and faculty qualifications; they should carefully determine if the program can provide a strong educational foundation in the field of choice.

How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?


degree_students_graduate On-time graduation is an important measure of student performance. Schools design their bachelor’s degree courses of study to support four-year completion with an average of 15 credit hours per semester. Students may prefer or fall into a pattern of 12 or fewer semester hours, but this will lengthen the amount of time it takes to earn your degree. The items below describe the on-time completion rates across all majors and fields of study.

Chart- On-Time Completion Averages for Four-Year Schools

  • At public colleges and universities, the four-year rate is about 35%
  • At private colleges and universities, the four-year rate is about 53%
  • At public colleges and universities, the six-year rate is about 65%
  • At private colleges and universities, the six-year rate is about 68%

What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?


degree_accreditation_does_the_program_hold Accreditation is a vital part of the selection process for online or on-campus degrees. Accreditation is an assurance of quality education relied upon by students, graduates, employers, and other educational institutions. The US Department of Education appoints independent organizations to conduct accreditation assessments. They can grant or deny accreditation based upon objective educational standards. The Department of Education established a set of regions and appointed an agency to verify accreditation of the schools, colleges, and universities offering higher education within those territories. There are two types of accreditation; they are regional accreditation and national accreditation.

National Accreditation is a type of assessment that compares elements of a school with other similar schools across the entire US. The types of schools that can get national accreditation include some online-only schools, vocational schools, and schools with special classifications like faith-based organizations. National accreditation works well when the agency has Department of Education recognition.

Regional accreditation is the most influential and widely accepted type of accreditation. Regional accreditation is intensive and thorough. The standards include the best -performing institutions in a multi-state region.

Accreditation reviews the policies and details of the school’s approach to education. It considers resources for education like libraries and laboratories. Regional accreditation reviews faculty qualifications and experience. It can be institution-wide or cover a single department or program. When focused on a small part, it is called programmatic accreditation.

Programmatic accreditation focuses on a single part of a school, and it is often a single program or department such as an MBA program, English department, or Computer Science program.

Program accreditation often has special impact because it is narrow and focused. Some accreditation groups offer a kind of special endorsement such as an online accounting or MBA program with an endorsement from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Software, Technology & Skills Needed for Your Major


degree_software_technology_skill_needed

In the technology-driven global economy, nearly every type of business uses technology. Most businesses and companies have some involvement with Internet technology or at least they use computers, and every business has an interest in keeping electronic records secure. Technology and computers are everywhere in modern workplaces, and students and graduates must be comfortable with varying degrees of technology.

The basics involve computer literacy and familiarity with operating systems and common electronic devices. Software typically requires a learning curve and graduates that can learn quickly have an advantage over those that do not have a level of comfort with varying types of software. Technical fields and occupations require technology skills. Skilled trades increasingly need technological experience. For example, truck driving today, not considered a technical trade, involves GPS, onboard computer, and electronic time management and logistical tracking. Further, the truck engine and motor controls operate through electronic systems, and many truck drivers have some level of mechanical ability to fix small issues on their vehicle so they can keep driving without long, or expensive, stops.

How to Choose an Online Associate Degree Program


An online associate is the fastest and lowest cost way to get a college degree. Students can select an associate in order to earn a degree that opens entry-level jobs and lays a foundation for a bachelor's degree.

Associate’s:


  • The average salary of all employees with an associate is $33,500 per year.
  • The average cost to get an associate degree is $36,000.
  • The time to completion is two to three years.
  • The average lifetime earnings for an associate degree is $1.04 million.
  • The average salary for an associate degree grad is $39,015.
Read More About Associate's Degree Options

How to Choose an Online Bachelor's Degree Program


A bachelor's degree can add thousands in annual income and hundreds of thousands over a lifetime of earnings. Attaining a bachelor’s degree will give you access to more options for jobs and careers.

Bachelor’s:


  • The median US salary for employees with a bachelors is about $33,500.
  • The average cost to get an online bachelor’s degree is about $47,000.
  • The time to completion for an online bachelor’s degree is four years of full-time attendance. The typical completion time for full and part-time online attendance is six years.
  • The average lifetime earnings for those with a bachelor’s is $2.1 million.
  • The average salary for a bachelor’s degree grad is $50,900 per year.
Read More About Bachelor's Degree Options

How to Choose an Online Master's Degree Program


A master's degree can add thousands in annual income and hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime of earnings. Students can choose fields that hold high interest and growth potential. While these degrees take longer to earn, they are a requirement for many jobs in academic sectors and much in demand in healthcare and public sectors.

Master’s:


  • The average salary of employees with a master’s is about $33,500.
  • The average cost to get a master’s degree online is $29,000. However, you must have a bachelor’s already to attend most masters programs.
  • The time to completion is usually four years for your bachelor’s, plus two years for the master’s, or six years
  • The average lifetime earnings with a master’s are $2.70 million.
  • The average salary for master’s degree Grads is $62,000 per year.

Read More About Master's Degree Options

Earning Potential of the Most Popular Online Degree Fields and Occupations


There is a direct relationship between salary and education level. The incomes of associate, bachelor’s degree, and master’s degree graduates rise with their education level. Education level has the same type of effect as years of experience. One should note that, with technology and innovation forcing high rates of change, the best candidate for a given job may be a recent graduate that has been immersed in the latest technologies and best practices.

Top Fields of Study Average Salary by Degree Level


  • Computer Information Systems is the field concerned with information technology and information security. Data and electronic systems form the core of many businesses and are an essential part of nearly every business.
  • Chemical Engineering is the study of industrial and commercial processes for producing chemical compounds. These compounds include fuels, lubricants, fertilizers, and solvents. Chemical engineering seeks efficiency and productivity. Today, it must also contain environmental and social awareness.
  • Medical Assistance is the field of study that consists of a wide range of support duties and functions in medical treatment settings.
  • Medical Technology is the study of laboratory and technical processes that support medical treatment. These include laboratory testing that require attention to details, precision, and accuracy. Medical testing is necessary to support sound medical decisions and effective patient care.
  • Electrical Engineering is the field of study that equips graduates to design, build, research, and plan electrical power systems. The field is broad and covers power generation on large scales for national and regional entities as well as tiny devices that require microscopic scale circuitry.
  • Construction Management is the field that combines budget, finance, and construction site supervision. Construction management affects the operation and outcome of building and construction projects.
  • Nursing involves delivering medical and practical care to patients. The study of nursing involves a wide range of specializations including pediatrics, mental health, anesthesia, and oncology.
  • Physical Therapy is the study of physical treatments that can reduce interference with normal daily functions from the effects of illness, disease, or disability. Physical therapy applies principles of biology, physiology, and other muscle-skeletal studies.
  • Aeronautics and Aviation Technology is the study of mechanical flight, commercial flight, and experimental flight. The range extends from the immediate airspace to orbital space.
  • Pharmacology is the study of medical compounds, drugs, and other natural or human-made substances and their effects on the human body and its life systems. Pharmacy is the study or dispensing medications, and it is a subfield of pharmacology.

Most Popular Degrees Earnings Potential


Top fields of studyAssociate DegreeBachelor’s DegreeMaster’s Degree
Information Systems$37,900$73,000$86,000
Chemical Engineering$65,000$76,935$99,306
Medical Assistance$34,500$36,500n/a
Medical Technology$49,000$59,000$70,000
Electrical Engineering$53,447$70,000$103,500
Construction Mgmt.$67,900$89,000$103,000
Nursing$58,000$68,400$110,000
Physical Therapy$54,072$72,000$83,000
Aero-Aviation Tech$54,023$66,000$134,000
Pharmacology$38,500$53,972$98,500

Salary by Occupation


Salary can vary within a field of study depending on the specific occupation class selected. Technology and innovation continuously raise the need for education and training, Employers must ask for higher levels of education, and they pay higher salaries to get the necessary qualifications. Technology and innovation can create a sharp increase in demand for particular occupations and skillsets with the occupation classes. In some cases, the best-qualified workers are recent graduates with current technology backgrounds.

Most Popular Occupations & Careers

  • IT Managers supervise an organization’s computer infrastructure and data management systems. They oversee critical functions like retrieval and analysis of information and management of database systems.
  • Senior Chemical Engineers are supervisors in industrial settings like chemical plants. The senior engineer supervises other engineers. Their duties include managing engineering staff, approving technical reports, and reviewing product design and specifications. They perform administrative duties related to managing staff including staff development, budgets, and training requirements. The senior chemical engineer implements the continuous assessment and improvement of processes and designs.
  • Medical Assistants work in teams with doctors, nurses, and specialists to deliver patient care. The work can vary with the type of organization. For example, in large hospitals, medical assistants work with a wide range of departments and specialties including mental health, emergency care, and intensive care units.
  • Medical Technicians perform laboratory tests and other analytic procedures, such as blood tests and specimen examinations. Medical technicians play a key role in efficient and timely medical care because laboratory processes inform broader medical decisions on patient condition and patient care. Accuracy, precision, and timeliness are important to this function.
  • Electrical engineers design and build electric powered systems. They implement components for electric powered machines and devices that use electricity. Engineers focus on the generation of power to the device or product. These items can include any electric-powered system, device, or machine. Electrical engineers also research, create, and improve products and devices.
  • Construction Project Managers manage building or other construction projects. Most of the work is administrative including cost estimating and budgeting. Some duties are quality control, scheduling, logistics, and project milestone completions. Project managers review designs and help create bids and proposals. Those with years of experience can get markedly higher pay.
  • Nurse Anesthetists work in medical settings including surgery to administer anesthetic compounds to patients. The role requires examination of medical histories and patient profiles to design the most effective combination of medical formulations to accomplish the goals of the procedures. The anesthetist must carefully monitor patients to balance tolerance with effective anesthesia, maintaining the proper level of anesthetics to prevent injuries and contribute to a positive patient outcome. Nurse anesthetists help educate and assist students to ensure proper training.
  • Senior Physical Therapists work with individuals that have injuries, illnesses, or other conditions that interfere with physical movement. Physical therapists provide treatments and pain management. They treat a wide range of patient conditions. The focus can vary each day from mild ankle sprains to paralysis or ischemic strokes. Senior physical therapists design treatment programs to increase function and allow patients to have maximum ability to complete activities of daily living with as little assistance as possible.
  • Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers ensure the safe flight of aircraft from one place to another by physically piloting and landing a variety of aircraft. They must manage equipment, weather systems, GPS, and ensure passenger safety. They work with air traffic systems, electronic communications, and civil aeronautics safety systems.
  • Pharmacists provide advice and information to patients, customers, and the general public. They can advise and perform vaccinations. Pharmacists often work for pharmacies and drugstores; they also play important roles in hospitals, care facilities, and medical clinics that employ in-house pharmacists to dispense drugs to their patients. Hospital and clinical pharmacists must analyze both in-patient and out-patient medication regimens; they must pay close attention to details, accuracy, and potential drug interactions.

Annual Salary by Occupation


OccupationsEntry LevelMid-CareerLate Career
IT Manager$60,000$78,000$100,000
Chemical Engineer$90,000$102,000$120,000
Medical Assistant$28,000$33,000$38,000
Medical Technician$37,000$42,000$50,000
Electrical Engineer$66,000$81,000$110,000
Project Manager$56,000$73,000$82,000
Nurse Anesthetist$110,000$150,000$165,000
Sr. Physical Therapist$75,000$80,000$93,000
Flight engineer$72,000$90,000$190,000
Pharmacist$105,000$118,000$122,000

Potential Scholarships


  • Google Lime Scholarship
    Amount: $10,000 (US), $5,000 (Canada)
    Deadline: Varies

    Google offers a scholarship program to specifically aid students with limited abilities. The goal is to help them achieve full participation and leadership roles in the field of computing and computer technology. The scholarships can go to students with either visible or invisible disabilities. The award consists of scholarship aid in the form of tuition funds for students pursuing education in programming, computer science, or a computer-based technology. The program includes an invitation to, and arranges for attendance to, the annual Google Scholar’s retreat. The selection factors include a judged competition on an essay that expresses the student’s commitment to learning.

  • Greenhouse Scholars Program
    Amount: $5,000 annually
    Deadline: December

    The scholarship awards are for $5,000 per year, and students can renew awards up to four years. The application period opened in September and will close in December.

    Greenhouse scholarships are part of a broad vision of the conditions of poverty in America. The goal is to examine the relationship between opportunity and success. The program seeks to disrupt conditions that pass low-income limitations on achievement from generation to succeeding generation. Eligible students must reside in the designated states (CO, GA, IL, and NC). The program uses tuition scholarships, summer enrichment activities, mentoring, collaborative assignments, and paid internships to promote learning and success.

  • Pride Foundation Scholarship
    Amount: Up to $10,000
    Deadline: January

    The award is up to $10,000. The application period opened in October and will close in January.

    The Pride Foundation awards scholarship assistance to support students that identify as members or allies of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Trans-sexual, or Queer Community. The award can support students that pursue studies that benefit or promote fairness towards the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Trans-sexual, or Queer Community. The decision criteria gives preferential advantage to persons that face discrimination and difficulty due to their status in or connection to the community. Eligible students must meet the residency test and either reside or study in the designated states (AK, ID, MONT, OR, or WA).

  • UNICAF MBA Scholarships
    Amount: $8,000-$10,000
    Deadline: Ongoing

    The program awards between $8,000 to $10,000 in student assistance. There is no application due date as the program has a rolling application period.

    This scholarship seeks to expand education options for African students. The program helps students with a demonstrated need by reducing the costs of their education to about $2,000 or less. Within the applicants that demonstrate need, the program will make merit-based selections for awards. Recipients must undertake studies and maintain an outstanding GPA. They must also participate in community development and charitable efforts.

Professional Organizations


A professional organization is a group that represents or is focused on the advancement of a business, field of study, or group of occupations. Professional organizations frequently act as advocates for the occupational group and the field of study they practice. For example, they may have a voice in the public policy debate over healthcare reform and social health insurance programs. In many professions such as nursing or psychiatry, professional associations play a central role in establishing standards for the practice and certifications of competence.

Students and graduates should strongly consider joining one or more professional organizations in their field of study. Professional organizations can be an excellent source of news, information, and educational resources. They can provide information on professional development and continuing education. Students and recent grads may have a particular interest in opportunities for networking or maintaining connections with their peers in their particular field.

  • AAAI
  • AWC
  • ANA
  • FBLA
AAAI_logo

AAAI

Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence

This organization is a non-profit scientific society. They devote efforts to advancing the science of understanding the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior. AI studies the embodiment of thinking and intelligence in devices and machines. Artificial intelligence is a fast growing and high-paying field. The study of AI also answers an urgent national priority to make up ground in research and development against international competition.

AWC-logo

AWC

Association for Women in Computing

Women have played key roles in the development of modern computing. Despite their majority status in society, women are severely under-represented in the high skill, high pay professions of computer science. The Association for women in computing seeks to promote women participation and leadership in the field of computing and computer science. The AWC is a pioneer organization and one of the first professional organizations for women in computing. They remain focused on advocacy, scholarship, and leadership by promoting the advancement of women in computer science and the computing professions.

ANA_logo

ANA

American Nurses Association

The ANA supports improved standards for patient care, and they advocate for greater access to medical care. The group advances the nursing profession with educational and training resources including continuing education. The association is active in practical fields like nurse credentialing. They are also active in national policy and healthcare legislation in Congress. Students can join the ANA and take advantage of information, education, and networking resources.

FBLA_logo

FBLA

Future Business Leaders of America – Phi Beta Lambda

The Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA-PBL) operates through chapters located across the United States. The FBLA is an organization for business students, and it has more than 230,000 members engaged in business careers and enrolled in business schools. The organization hosts an annual leadership conference, and it focuses on providing services to members in areas such as leadership development, education, and academic competitions.

Choosing an Accredited College


Selecting an accredited college is an essential step in finding and completing an online or on-campus degree. At all levels of education, accreditation adds to the value and usefulness of the degree and it guarantees wide acceptance for the credit hours earned in pursuit of a degree. The school can have national, regional, or programmatic accreditation. Regional institutional accreditation and regional programmatic accreditation is the ideal combination for most students at two or four-year schools.

However, you need to be aware that some fields can have special program accreditation from agencies dedicated to high-quality education in that particular field. If your field of study has one accrediting agency that is the gold standard for accreditation in the field, you should do your best to find a program accredited by that agency.

Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid


Students should choose online, on-campus, or hybrid types of attendance based upon their situations. Online education is ideal for students that wish to continue working while pursuing a degree. The advantages of online education include lower costs and flexible class attendance. Students have a wide range of freedom to choose when to access course content.

Additional Questions


Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help & Assistance?

Students should look for post-graduate job placement and career counseling when selecting a school. You first job can boost the early stages of a career. It is not too early to plan for life after the degree program completes. The inquiry should go in depth on this subject. Students should know whether there is a department dedicated to job placement and counseling. They should ask about the size of the program and the types of counseling, coaching, and interview preparation assistance it offers.

A school, college, or university is more than a collection of classrooms and teachers. A school is a community of alumni, supporters, corporate partners, and sponsors. It should be an engine for networking and referrals for graduates.

Why You Need to Consider the Overall National Rankings of the College and The Effects on Your Career or Salary

The best school for any student is the one that best meets his or her needs and preferences. Rankings are only one way of examining the right school. Rankings can make a difference in the way employers and other educational institutions you’re your academic achievement. They can work for or against graduates when seeking jobs to start careers. Schools with high rankings can support interview and positive hiring decisions that may yield higher salaries than lower ranked schools.

No matter how you feel about it, rankings are a factor, and they can affect salary ranges and job offers. When examining school rankings, employers value high graduation rates, low rates of drop-outs, and high indicators on graduates finding high-paying jobs. Employers can use rankings to help predict the level of performance from graduates of a particular school or type of school. However, ranking is not more important than selecting a school that meets your needs and complements your objectives. When all things seem nearly equal, then rankings can be an excellent factor to add to the equation.

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