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Do You Want to Get into a Good School—or into a Good Career?

Do You Want to Get into a Good School—or into a Good Career?

The answer most people will have, of course, is probably both. But even though building a solid career is the end goal, many students are so focused on getting into a good school that they end up losing sight of that.

That’s in no small part because many students have been taught that the path to success is graduating high school, going to a good college for a four-year degree, and landing a great job with a high salary.

But what does a “good college” mean exactly? And what does a four-year program at a traditional university typically prepare you for? The truth is that the more the world evolves, so do the roads that can lead to a rewarding career.

When it comes down to it, there’s nothing wrong with focusing on getting into a good school. But if what you’re really after is a good career, you might want to consider what the best way to get there really is.

Getting into a Good School

College can provide all kinds of wonderful benefits and provide incredible opportunities for students. But somewhere along the line, the pressure to get into a specific type of school has shifted the focus from higher education as a means to an end (a successful career) to the end goal itself.

The fact is that four-year degree programs at traditional universities often prepare students for only certain types of jobs—if they directly prepare them for careers at all. If personal enrichment and fulfilling a love of learning is what you’re after, this may be the perfect route for you.

But if you’re looking for training to build a successful career, you may want to think twice.

Getting into a Good Job

Career and technical education, meanwhile, is meant to help students learn the skills they’ll be using on the job. Trade schools also get overlooked, but that’s a mistake. CTE programs are designed explicitly to help students learn what they need to know as quickly as possible—cutting out general education requirements and spending as much time as possible in lab environments using industry-standard tools and equipment.

That means you’re more likely to get into the workforce after just two years, or even in a matter of months, rather than waiting four full years to earn a degree from a traditional university. Your time is valuable: spend it learning practical work skills and training for a career!

CTE programs can help you prepare for skilled jobs that can have higher wages and more reliability than a typical office gig that a four-year degree can help you get.

Consider how essential roles like contractors, dental hygienists, plumbers, HVAC specialists, and nurses are to your community and to communities all across the country. Many of these jobs are facing shortages of skilled workers, and—in today’s economy especially—there’s a growing need for new hires now, not in four years.

Preparing for a Good Future

While it’s critical to consider your future goals when it comes to your career, it’s also important to consider your future educational goals.

Some students may look at a four-year degree program and feel overwhelmed by the commitment. Others may think that pursuing “just” a certificate won’t get them as far as they want to go.

That’s where degree stacking comes in! Many schools offer programs that nest into each other, giving students the opportunity to start with shorter programs that can help them get in the door.

And once they’ve got some experience under their belts and are ready to advance a little further, they can put those certificate credits toward an associate degree. That can help them take on additional responsibilities, snag that promotion, and even get a raise. From there, students can decide to eventually pursue a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or other advanced program as they’re able.

This is a particularly popular track to take in nursing: You can earn your practical nursing certificate in as little as one year, helping you become an LPN (licensed practical nurse).

LPNs often choose to later pursue a two-year associate degree to become an RN (registered nurse). They can then leverage their education and experience in an RN-to-BSN completion program, helping them earn their bachelor’s degree.

Are you ready to skip worrying about getting into a good school and begin preparing for a good career? You don’t have to wait! Start with choosing a program: Check out the Imagine America Foundation’s robust network of schools to find the right one for you!

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