How can I find a better sense of direction?
November 12, 2010 9:04 PM   Subscribe

How can I make the most of higher education and get my future on track?

I've been going to a local Community College off and on for the past few years, but never really had much direction or took it too seriously. I'm 25 now though and still working basically minimum wage, and it seems to me that the only way to make any kind of decent income is to take higher education seriously, and so I'm beginning to do that. I've read the nightmare stories about people graduating, then left without a job and a great deal of student debt, but going to a CC is cheap, and I'm getting Federal aid to cover it for the time being. So money and debt isn't an issue for me right now.

But I'm still feeling uncertain about where I'm headed. I know I'm going to have to drop my old habits of just doing enough to get by, and really buckle down to get a good overall GPA, but I'd like some further reassurance before my can really apply myself. Up to this point, I've failed multiple courses, but have successfully retaken most of them. Math, particularly Algebra, has given me the most trouble, but I intend to use to help me learn the math when I retake the course.

I figured the best thing to do would be to get an Associate's degree from the CC, then transfer to a more respected school to get something like a Bachelor's degree, but that's a serious time commitment and down the line a serious money commitment as well. I know the importance of college degrees these days to employers, but is going the 4-year school route really the best way for me to get into a good and decent-paying career?

I'm still pretty lost about what to major in, but I was leaning toward Business, as that seems to be a practical major which I've found to be somewhat interesting. I've heard so often that you should get a career in something you really enjoy, but there aren't any subjects I've been particularly thrilled about. While I guess I've been most interested in history, the job prospects for that sort of major seem slim. I like computers and am fascinated by future technological developments, but those areas seem to be very math-intensive, and math has always been my weakest subject.

I've spoken to the school advisor at the beginning of this semester, who was helpful. And I'll be speaking to an advisor again within the next week or so to finalize my plans for the next semester, and to discuss an overall plan beyond that. But I'm just looking for other views and advice to take into consideration, to put me in a better position for planning out my future in higher education.
posted by Ryogen to Education (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Engineering degrees have the highest starting salaries for 4-year degrees: see salaries for different majors (

You don't really know what you like until you try it. If you get good at something you'll probably enjoy it. If you're good at something people want to pay for, you'll have a good job. You get better by putting in hours of focused, non-distracted practice.
posted by sninctown at 10:38 PM on November 12, 2010

Two very possible paths are software engineering (not computer science) or network administration. Both are technical but not math intensive. Your CC should have classes in both. Maybe try them out?
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:36 AM on November 13, 2010

I was leaning toward Business, as that seems to be a practical major which I've found to be somewhat interesting

Majoring in business is one of those things that people without a college education think is practical but really isn't. I mean, what kind of job does that prepare you for? If you wanted to go that route of getting a "practical" degree, you would be better-served majoring in accounting, which can at least get you a job doing something specific, and then you could move through a company doing different things (accounting, auditing) and maybe migrating to a more managerial role.

I like computers and am fascinated by future technological developments, but those areas seem to be very math-intensive, and math has always been my weakest subject.

As devilsbrigade said, information technology/network administration programs cover a lot of things that would serve your interests without being as math intensive as computer science.

What are your career goals? If you decide that a four year degree isn't your thing, would you be ok with something in the "allied health" field (x-Ray tech, etc.) ?
posted by deanc at 2:58 AM on November 13, 2010

It might be worth speaking to a careers counsellor to clarify what it is you'd ultimately like to do for a career - think about ten years' ahead and where you'd like to be, where you picture yourself. A good careers adviser should be able to extract information from you about your interests, skills and competencies to be able to suggest where those would best be directed for a career that you'd find fulfilling.

I was working as a secretary when, at 23, I embarked on a law degree at night school. It took me a few years to qualify as a lawyer but I've never regretted having to spend my evenings studying.
posted by essexjan at 7:07 AM on November 13, 2010

I'm a huge proponent of higher education, but I also think it needs to be tempered with your outlook on why you want it and what you want to do with it. Given that you aren't sure what you want to do with it, it would be useful to find someone to talk to to help you with that. If income is one of your primary areas of focus, you might also want to consider checking out your local technical college -- there are programs where you could be done fairly quickly and increase your earning potential. Many of those require some gen ed courses, which is what you would have been taking for your AA, and so some might transfer.
posted by bizzyb at 7:37 AM on November 13, 2010

Nthing career counselor.

Practical = x-ray tech
Not-practical = history
Only a smidge practical = business
A bit more practical = accounting

But if math isn't for you, why do business anyway?

Consider your 10 year outlook.
posted by k8t at 9:57 AM on November 13, 2010

Anything involving computers will be very useful for employment for the forseeable future - if you're up to it, consider working towards a master's in cs - difficult, but at the right place and as long as you make an effort to work with others and get help when you're lost, it's a very lucrative degree and can be done fairly quickly. Plus it's something to work toward and give your life direction. Assuming you even like computers - (you're posting here, right)
posted by Astragalus at 12:11 PM on November 13, 2010

You like computers, you're unsure about the time commitment to a BS or BA degree, and you enjoy business (I agree with deanc above about a degree in business). You want to have a future and make more money.

Have you considered being a machinist? Machining is a special group of skills, and it's not necessarily just standing in front of a lathe all day. If you learn to program a CNC, you'll be working with CAD and CAM software (MasterCAM, Solidworks, Pro/E, etc.). Most mechanical engineers lack hardcore machining and metalworking skills, but they're completely necessary for any industry--automotive, aerospace, power, etc. Machinists can work closely with engineers. A good machinist can make a pretty decent career, depending on the industry. And there's expected to be job growth. Check out the BLS for more info. I suggest this because almost any CC will have machining courses. If you DO decide to go towards something more technical later (ie. a degree in engineering), any background in machining and woodworking will be invaluable.
posted by rybreadmed at 5:42 PM on November 13, 2010

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