A college education

Many students go to college and hope to have a good career but after graduated they could NOT find a job because their degrees are not valuable in this competitive market. The fact is a college education is essential in building a good career if the students know how to choose a field of study at match their interests and market demand.

Before selecting a field of study in college, students need to look closely at the job market to identify which fields are needed and what skills are in high demand. The issue is many students are NOT careful in selecting what to study but choose an “idealistic area” rather be practical. Many students do NOT spend the time to do research for their career but follow some vague advice such as “Do what you like then everything will be fine.” The fact is many high school students do NOT know what they like and what they do not like, many are not mature enough to make the right decision. Many high school students do not receive proper advice about their career choices so they just pick anything that seems reasonable just to get a degree rather than planning carefully for their future career.

Basically, a career is an expression of the personality and their interests. But how many high school students know what their interests are? Some believe that if they are good in certain subjects in high school then they are interested in that field so the interest is based on what they are good at instead of a thorough reflection on their personality. Many also follow their friends when selecting a field of study in college instead of charting their own career plan. It is important for students to understand more about themselves, about their own interest to see how they can relate to a career path. Students must understand that selecting a field of study in college is NOT random, is NOT about luck, but a major investment of their time and efforts and their family’s financial support.

When students go to college, they are adults, and they must make their own choice that shapes a path that leads them to what they want to do for their future. They can get a very good career by getting the right education at the right school. Having the right degree also start them on the right path to career advancement. Therefore students must think carefully about what area they need to study, and on what levels they will need to advance in their career. Once they are able to get into their area of interest, consider if they need to continue their education for advanced degrees (MS or Ph.D.) in order to move to a higher position.

Students need to understand that no one can give them a job, but they must earn it as it will take a lot of hard work and determination to get where they want to be. For example, if they want to be a high level manager someday, they must think about the responsibilities of that particular job and the type of experience and skills necessary to fulfill them. A high level manager job is to manage a team of professionals, assign works, and review their works to determine whether they achieve the company’s goals and expectations. To do that they must be good at both technical and management skills. The path to a high level manager may consist of jobs such as a team leader, project manager, service manager, and middle-level manager.

If students want to be a top scientist someday, they must think about the responsibilities of that particular job and the type of skills necessary to fulfill them. A scientist job is about conducting research, work within a team of scientists to explore, discover, identify and find a solution or a breakthrough in the scientific domain. To do that students must continue their education to the highest degree, mostly Ph.D. under well-known professors at some top universities so they can get a research job at research labs to work on some scientific research.

If students want to be an entrepreneur someday, they must think about the knowledge and skills that they must have in particular areas that they want to explore. An entrepreneur needs to have both domain knowledge and business skills to succeed. They must have an ambitious goal and carefully research the market for opportunities and know how to seize them BEFORE others. It is important that they plan out the necessary steps they may need to get there.

Today a college education is essential in this globally competitive market. Students must have a strong foundation to build their career but it is up to them to select their field of study appropriately. Today having a career plan is the first step that every high school student must have BEFORE entering college. They need to reflect on their personality, their interests, their educational goal and if needed try to read more about career planning from their school advisors and other information.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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