Paying for college is one of the biggest commitments you can make, but it’s also one of the most essential. Many wonder whether they can even find a job without a degree. While there are still ways to earn a decent living through trade school or freelancing, degrees give you far more than just job opportunities.
A degree prepares you to enter your industry with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive. You also position yourself as a dedicated, trustworthy professional who is more likely to attract employers or even their own clients. Setting yourself up to increase your net worth over time and for a successful career doesn’t have to cost you six-figures, though. In fact, the flexibility of today’s degrees makes it easier than ever to protect your finances while furthering your education.
What Type of Degree Do I Need?
The level of education you pursue is most largely impacted by your goals. Some jobs have strict educational requirements, like mental health counselors and veterinarians. Other fields are more flexible, and you can enter them with an undergraduate or even an associate’s degree. Before you decide what to study or what type of degree to pursue, think about where you see yourself in five years. Do you have a specific career in mind, or are you more interested in a general field?
Those who have a specific career goal can research job listings to see what employers are actively looking for. Then, you can choose a program that will give you the perfect credentials. On the other hand, you may find that just choosing a major is enough for you to start your studies. You may begin by pursuing an associate’s degree, then move on to a bachelor’s if you want to expand your horizons even further.
Is an Associate’s Degree Worth It?
Because bachelor’s degrees are standard in the modern workforce, those who pursue an associate’s may feel like they’re wasting money on a program. However, most associate’s programs prepare you for a specific job that you can start working immediately after graduation. Unlike a four-year program, an associate’s degree gives you highly specific skills training for careers like a dental hygienist, paralegal or law enforcement officer. The cost of an associate’s can be 50 to 70% cheaper than that of a bachelors. Depending on your school and the program, you may be able to pay as little as $3,000 per year in tuition.
How Much Should I Pay for College?
Every student’s comfort level is different when it comes to debt. Some are willing to go any length to get the degrees they want while others are okay with a trade-off. In general, the average student has roughly $40,000 in student loans by the time they graduate from an undergraduate program. You may be able to offset this by exploring alternatives to federal student loans. Scholarships and need-based grants are free, and private student loans are diverse and flexible. You can borrow student loans from a private lender to fill gaps that aid does not cover, or to get better interest rates.
Choosing the Right School for Your Dreams
No matter what you decide, make sure to take time exploring different schools. While price is important, it’s not the only factor worth considering. You should also consider the faculty, student body, opportunities and career options you’ll have by attending a particular institution. Be sure to reach out to each school’s financial aid office as well. They can help you break down tuition, find better financing options and get the most out of your investment.