Find the right degree program for you
From healthcare and education to engineering and business, we’re committed to presenting information about the top degree programs for virtually every academic area in the form of rankings. Our editors share their expert knowledge with you on choosing the right degree, finding the best college, and determining the ideal career fit.
Enrollment in higher education has skyrocketed by 38% over the last decade and more educational programs are available nationwide than ever before. It is becoming increasingly important for you to narrow down the multitude of options and find the best degree. Although there was a time when a college degree was significant for landing a great job after graduation, this is no longer the case in today’s job market. One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a college degree is its projected value, especially with rising tuition costs. To ensure you are making a sound investment, you need to choose a college degree that aligns with your career interests and opens the door to career opportunities.
Finding the best place to earn a degree is also essential to avoid being ripped off by the rising number of so-called diploma mills across the higher education landscape. Diploma mills are unaccredited higher learning institutions that operate without supervision by a professional agency. They lack proper academic standards and often grant fraudulent degrees. To avoid being ripped off by diploma mills, seek out degree programs that have been accredited by a regional accrediting agency. Accreditation guarantees that you are receiving a high-quality education. It will also ensure you can transfer credits with ease and qualify for financial assistance.
When choosing from the growing number of degree options offered, you should also consider your unique learning needs. On-campus degrees are provided by brick-and-mortar universities to students who benefit the most from interacting in a traditional classroom setting and enjoy receiving face-to-face instruction. On the other hand, technological advancements have also led to the creation of numerous accredited online degree programs. These are an excellent choice for students seeking a flexible class schedule that accommodates work or family obligations with self-directed learning. Many different types of schools also offer degrees in a hybrid format. This is a blend of online education with a few classroom meetings. Hybrid formats help cut down on commuting time.
Beyond high school, there are four major categories of degrees available in post-secondary education. Earning a college degree can do wonders for expanding career opportunities. But it’s important to understand the different degree options available. You want to be certain you’re not choosing a program that will waste valuable time and money. If you are unsure which degree is right for you, the following is an overview on the four main types of degrees that offer different time commitments, career paths, and areas of study.
At community colleges and technical schools, associate degrees are offered in a two-year format to prepare students for entry-level jobs in various vocations. Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.), and Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees are granted in career-oriented programs that focus less on abstract theories and more on the essential practical abilities needed for immediate employment. Associate degrees may be the best fit for students entering a new career. They can also be used as a stepping stone for entering the world of higher education by transferring to a bachelor’s degree program.
Consisting of at least 120 credit hours, bachelor’s degrees are granted by colleges and universities. The four-year undergraduate curriculum typically is built on a strong general education foundation. In a bachelor’s degree program you must choose a major, such as education, finance, nursing, history, communications, or psychology. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Fine Arts, or Bachelor of Business Administration, graduates are qualified to enter mid-level positions and further their education in graduate level.
If you want to work in advanced leadership positions, returning to graduate school to complete a master’s degree is often required. Ranging in length from one to three years, master’s degree programs build upon your undergraduate education to provide opportunities to specialize in a specific area of study. Different degrees at the master’s level will lead to a Master of Arts , Master of Science, Master of Fine Arts , or Master of Business Administration degree. Graduate students will generally need to complete a Master’s thesis or capstone project to receive the degree.
As the most advanced type of degree offered, doctoral programs are granted by accredited graduate schools to highly qualified students who have spent several years completing advanced studies, clinical internships, and major dissertation research. The most common doctoral programs are Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Medicine, Juris Doctor, Doctor of Education, and Doctor of Psychology degrees. In building a high level of expertise in a specialized area of study, doctoral programs qualify graduates to work in executive-level positions and as professors or researchers at universities.
The Importance of Rankings
Despite the fact that critics often ridicule college rankings for flaws, research shows that a growing number of students are relying on rankings to assist in making their college picks. In a recent survey by the Art & Science Group, nearly two-thirds of prospective college students surveyed said they “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that college rankings are important in trying to sort out the crucial differences between university programs. Rankings can be of great assistance early on in the selection process simply for being a resource for finding high-quality college ideas for students and their parents. Rankings are designed to be tip sheets that point students in the right direction to solid schools that can then be researched in further detail.
Reports for college rankings may first appear to only assign universities certain numbers, but it is essential to realize that these numbers correspond to a large amount of data that is valuable in the college selection process. When forming college rankings, organizations usually weigh a vast number of important criteria, including student-to-faculty ratios, freshman retention rates, graduation rates, faculty credentials, student engagement, acceptance rates, academic support, and more. While all of this data should be available on each school’s website, college rankings are extremely convenient for finding all of the vital information in one place and for determining how universities compare to others in the region.
In addition to the large number of rankings created by our top-notch researchers, there are quality rankings published annually by a wide variety of organizations. Among the most prominent sources for finding college rankings is the U.S. News and World Report, which offers expanded profiles for nearly 1,800 schools in America and ranks schools or programs according to different criteria. As a magazine for finding reliable business and finance information, Forbes also composes a list of “America’s Top Colleges” at the undergraduate level. Princeton Review is another popular resource that publishes rankings for the best national and regional colleges based on 62 different categories, including vibrant party scenes, beautiful campuses, comfortable college dorms, and great financial aid packages.
On an international level, there are many other rankings that have been designed to help prospective students refine their list of target schools based on global reputation. For instance, the Academic Ranking of World Universities is published at Shanghai Jiao Tong University to present the world’s top 500 universities annually. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings are also presented each year to judge world-class institutions around the globe in accordance to their teaching, research, knowledge transfer, and international outlook. QS World University Rankings also enable students to compare schools across the world by specific region, subject area, or reputation.
Affording Your Degree
As the hefty price tag of college tuition continues to rise, it is now estimated that the average yearly cost for four-year college degrees is $8,655 at public colleges and $29,056 at private universities in the United States. While this cost includes tuition as well as room and board, there a number of other expenses to be covered in higher education, including textbooks, parking passes, meal plans, studying abroad, academic fees, and other educational supplies. Therefore, it is no surprise that one of the most crucial issues facing graduating high school seniors and returning college students is the question of how to afford a college degree.
Luckily, financial aid is a major source of funding that can be utilized by students to cover these overwhelming tuition expenses. Financial aid typically comes from the federal government, your state’s government, or from the college you have applied to. Students often overlook financial aid because they mistakenly believe that their family makes too much money or simply cannot afford college, but there are many forms of financial aid that are available for many different kinds of students. Financial aid can be offered for monetary need based on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) or for merit based on your academic achievement in high school.
Financial aid packages often consist of loans that borrow money from the federal government in order to make your college dreams come true. Whether Perkins loans, direct subsidized loans, direct unsubsidized loans, or parent PLUS loans, the financial aid will eventually need to be repaid to the government with interest charged each month. Due to the fact that an alarming number of college seniors are now graduating with an average of nearly $30,000 in debt, it is recommended that you borrow wisely to avoid accumulating overwhelming debt later on.
If you are looking for ways to afford your degree without having to repay the funding, there are numerous other options available, including work study. After filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for financial aid, it will be determined the amount of work study that you qualify for to help you pay for college out of your earnings. When you complete work study assignments, you will be paid by the hour at least once a month to cover the costs of your tuition, room, meals, or other college expenses. Unlike money earned in off-campus work, the federal government will not count the work study earnings as income or lower your financial aid eligibility.
Other popular options for receiving additional funding without the need for repayment are scholarships and grants, which can range from a $100 to full tuition coverage. Despite popular belief that scholarships are reserved for high-flying academic achievers and exceptionally needy students, there are literally countless ways for every college student to qualify for this form of financial aid. You have the ability to earn scholarships based on your major, future career plans, state of residence, volunteer commitments, leadership abilities, cultural background, hobbies, work experiences, and more. Therefore, it is highly recommended that all prospective college students contact their financial aid office to inquire about available scholarship and grant opportunities that are offered inside or outside of their university.
Although tuition prices are rising, we firmly believe that degree programs are still a solid investment that will pay off in the long-term. In fact, Americans with at least a four-year college degree make an average of 98% more per hour than those without a degree. At Best Degree Programs, we are committed to helping you maximize your education investment by assisting you in picking a best value college degree with a high-paying career potential. We now invite you to start roaming around our website to check out rankings of the best degree programs available in a wide range of academic areas and begin finding degrees that will meet all of your learning needs!