Every day we’re faced with decisions. Get up or stay in bed? Check Twitter or scan newspapers? Then you decide what to have for breakfast and what outfit matches your mood for the day. These are pretty simple choices that don’t require much thought. But when trying to decide what educational qualification you need to have for the career you want, you’re better off making a thought-through decision based on data.
3 ways to decide if you should go to college or university
- Figure out what you want: It can be tough sometimes, but you need to have an idea of what kind of work you’re interested in. Finding what interests you the most is the first step. In high school, did you get excited about technical classes where you had to design things and use tools/instruments to construct or take things apart? Or were you more of a numbers person who found finance and accounting really easy? There is only one expert who understands what gets you excited and what you enjoy – and that expert is you.
- What is the industry demand?: Once you have an idea about what kind of work you’re best suited to, the next step is to find out what the industry trends are predicting. Are there lots of opportunities? What influences the industry? Is it a growing or dying industry? If becoming an administrative assistant is your goal, you’ll be disappointed to learn that this is not a growing career path. These kinds of jobs are affected by technology. There are dozens of software applications used to automate most of the tasks previously performed by administrative assistants.
One way to learn about the industry is to search for the governing body for that career group. Examples of governing bodies for Accountants are the Certified General Accountants or Certified Management Accountants; for Plumbing it’s the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating; for Supply Chain it’s the Canadian Supply Chain Council. Most professions have governing associations with local chapters where you can meet and learn from professionals who are already doing what you’re interested in.
- What qualification is required?: If you followed the first two steps in this process, you’ll know what qualification(s) you need to have to get the job you want. Compared to university and college student recruiters who conduct education fairs at your high school, industry professionals are in the best position to tell you what education is needed for that career path. The fact remains that where you get your education should be determined by the nature and requirements of the job you want. A couple expecting a baby and in need of a new car should be looking at buying a spacious car rather than a 2-seater convertible. Same thing applies with university or college education – it has to fit your purpose.
How not to decide between college and university
- Following the crowd: All your friends are going to university. If you follow the crowd, you’ll never get past them. Besides, you may be interested in a different program compared to your friends. Don’t let them control your future.
- Selecting a college or university just because your parent(s) went there: Unless your parent currently has the kind of job you want and other industry experts in this same profession have also recommended that college or university, don’t decide just based on your parents’ emotional attachment to their alma mater.
- Deciding based on the cost: Money is the basis of a lot of decisions. How much is the tuition? Do I have to take a student loan? Can I get scholarships? These are important questions that require answers. But simply choosing to study at a university or college based on the tuition or amount of scholarships offered is not the best way to go. Do what you can to attend the best school for you.
Check out more free advice on making your college vs. university decision.