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What Online Degree Do You Need to Meet Your Goal? The Answer May Surprise You

Sep 30, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 4 Comments

Most people assume you need a certain degree to enter a certain field. But is that really true? Depending on the type of job you want, it may be possible to get an entry-level position without a four-year degree—or without a degree at all.  Before you enroll in an expensive college degree program, get the real story on what type of degree you need to get the job you want. Here’s how.

Talk to people in your career

The first place to start is by asking people who have the career path you want. Ask someone who has your job—what degree do they have? Did they have to continue their education after they were hired? Did they need an advanced degree to move up?

Bear in mind that if the person you talk to was hired ten years ago or more, the hiring requirements may have changed. Today, many jobs that didn’t require a degree in the past are now requiring two- or four-year degrees. Still, it can be very valuable—and a good place to start—to talk to the people who’ve
already gotten hired for the job you want.

Woman Using Computer

If you have very specific career goals, don’t enroll in college until you know that you’ll need that degree to get where you want.


Talk to hiring managers and recruiters

If you really want to know what hiring managers and recruiters look for in employees, ask them. Checking in with someone who’s doing the hiring work today on what education expectations they have—and whether there are exceptions. For instance, will the hiring manager automatically discard a resume that doesn’t include a four-year degree , even if the applicant has plenty of on-the-job experience? You can read and listen to all the reporting you want about what the education requirements really are—but you won’t really know for sure unless you hear it from the people doing the hiring.

Check out your state’s certification and licensure requirements

Some states have very specific requirements regarding the degree you need in order to practice in a certain field. This is true in a variety of fields, from teaching in public schools to the medical field. Many licensing tests in all states require test-takers to hold a certain degree before they can sit for the exam—or do any work in the state. Check with your state’s licensing department in the area to be sure.

Read bios of successful people in your field

If your chosen field has attracted a lot of high-profile people, read their bios. You may be surprised at how many people in your field don’t have advanced degrees. For example, if you want to start a tech firm, you don’t need to have a Bachelor’s degree—Bill Gates didn’t. If you want to be an artist, author, or actress, you don’t necessarily need a four-year degree—although studying your subject in college can help you refine your skills. Read the bios of famous people in your desired line of work—and see how they got started.

Read descriptions for job openings you’d apply for

Check out,, or one of any number of online job listing sites—and get an overview of the education requirements your potential employers are looking for. Most job listings clearly state education requirements as well as desired experience. If all the job listings you see ask for a required college degree, you should probably earn one—if you haven’t already. If some of them do and some of them don’t, you may have a good chance of landing the job you want—with or without the degree. If none of the job descriptions you’re reading require a degree, earning it might give you an edge—or it might make you look overqualified.

If you have very specific career goals, don’t enroll in college until you know that you’ll need that degree to get where you want. Talk to people in your field—including those who make hiring decisions. Check out job listings online to see what they’re asking for, and check with your state’s licensing requirements if applicable. If you do, you could save yourself an expensive—and time-consuming—stint in college.


The Expert Over a year ago

Online schools offer flexibility with schedules as well as payment plans, but like any major decision, choosing an online degree program and an online school requires a little research and asking the right questions. Is the school accredited? What credentials do they offer? What programs are available?
well, thanks a lot for sharing your idea on this great topic. I enjoyed reading the article.

comositedecking Over a year ago

I do agree that most of the hiring employers do look first for the degree earned by an apllicant, and mostly those apllicants who have not earned any 4yr degree are automatically discarded. What else is new? Can't they consider too the abilities/skills/capabilities of the applicant? A degree does not always guarantee that an applicant will be a good employee.

EDU Backlinks Over a year ago

Definitely! there are lots of college drop-outs that succeed in their business ventures, education is essential but experience is more vital.

Shannon Thompson Over a year ago

This is very informative for those students who want to continue their career with further study and for those who are able to directly join the field without attending a college. It it inspiration for both type of students to achieve their success in career.

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