Websites To Help You Decide If Your Degree Is Worth It

Finding the Value of Your Degree

You have a passion for psychology and have considered pursuing a bachelor’s degree, but have you considered the earning potential for graduates in the field? Maybe you’ve spent your free time creating digital art and wonder if a graphic design degree would jump start a new career, but do you know what the job market looks like in the industry? Perhaps you're considering an advanced degree, and want to compare graduate programs and options. Or maybe you're a parent who wants to steer their child toward a degree that will lead to a stable, high-paying career.

With help from several government websites, you can discover everything you need to know and more. Keep reading to learn which websites might help the most.

Government websites to help you research earning potential

When you're gearing up for college and trying to decide on a major, it's wise to explore what different careers entail. Begin your research at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where you can learn about nearly every job that exists.

Beyond the basics, you'll discover job duties, educational standards, and licensing requirements for every career you're interested in. Further, you can learn what kind of growth is expected in various fields over the next decade or more.

Let's say you want to become a civil engineer. By perusing the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook for that career, you can find out what civil engineers do and how they work. Further, you'll learn that most employers expect civil engineers to have a bachelor's degree, and that job openings are expected to increase 8% nationally through 2024. Most importantly, you'll also learn that civil engineers earned an annual mean wage of $82,220 nationally in 2015.

The U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop lets you take your research even further. Let's say you live in Texas and want a better handle on the career outlook there. After entering your state and desired occupation, you find that jobs for civil engineers in Texas are expected to increase 24.2% from 2014 to 2024, adding 6,140 jobs in the process.

Now imagine you want to explore how you might fare as a civil engineer elsewhere. What if you move? By searching Occupational Employment Statistics on BLS.gov, you can find out which industries pay civil engineers the most, which states have the highest level of employment, and which states pay the most, too. And, lo and behold, you might shelf your moving plans — Texas is actually the fourth-highest-paying state in the nation for civil engineers, with a reported annual mean wage of $97,900 in 2015.

Of course, this civil engineer example works with any career in any state — whether you hope to be a diagnostic medical sonographer in California or a kindergarten teacher in Arizona. Just plug in your details and let these websites do the work.

How much will you pay for school?

As we all know, finding the right career path is just part of the equation. Beyond choosing the right college major, you need to arm yourself with information about college costs.

This is where the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) comes in. While the actual price you'll pay for tuition depends on how much aid you receive, finding out how much schools actually charge is still a smart move.

Let's imagine you're still bent on a career as a civil engineer. Using the NCES College Navigator, you can search for schools that offer this degree program by state. Once you search Texas, you'll find that 21 different institutions offer civil engineering programs — all with tuition costs that vary by thousands of dollars. At Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, for example, in-state tuition rang in at just $8,002 for the 2015-16 school year. At Rice University in Houston, on the other hand, tuition and fees were $42,253.

3. Take care of your existing loans

You will still be responsible for the student loans you borrowed for your old school, so it’s important to address them when you transfer. For example, the funds for most private and federal student loans are usually sent to the school in chunks, one at the beginning of each semester. If you’re transferring in the middle of an academic year, make sure to notify your student loan lenders to cancel any funds that are still pending.

If you will be a full-time or at least half-time student at your new school, lenders usually allow you to defer your student loans while you continue your studies. When you are no longer enrolled at your old school they will report that information to student loan lenders, so make sure your lenders know you will be enrolled in another school so it does not impact the repayment status of your loans. The new school will report your new enrollment status as well, but it’s good to stay on top of your loan status to avoid accidentally going into repayment.

Other ways to put government websites to work

If you're unsure what type of program or discipline to pursue, there are several government portals that can help you find the highest-paying and fastest-growing career disciplines in any area.

For example, a quick search of the BLS will turn up information on jobs with the fastest anticipated growth through 2024. On a national level, those jobs include:

CareerOneStop allows you to search for the "hottest" and fastest - growing job by state and education level.If you want to search for the hottest jobs that require an associate's degree in Arkansas, for example, you can do so. Conversely, you can check out the job prospects for master's degree - holders in Maine, Florida, or New York.Or, you can figure out which bachelor's degree program might help you earn the most money in any state.

The bottom line

While choosing your future career might seem impossible, plenty of government websites offer data that can help you decide. As an added bonus, you can also learn what to expect in terms of pay, whether a degree program will be in demand, and how much school might cost to earn the right diploma. If you have questions, or would like more information about paying for college call 877-367-3207 to speak to a Student Lending Specialist.

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