Higher Ed. Degree in hand… where do I go from here?

Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Author: 
Jamie Vaughn

As the calendar turns to May, students who don caps and gowns for graduation often hear, "Congratulations for earning that degree, now what are you going to do?" Which is sometimes a tough question to answer for those looking for a job.   

Some higher education programs have obvious ties to occupations; for example a Bachelor’s Degree Accounting Program trains students to work as Accountants. Did you know an accounting program directly prepares students for seven specific occupations, including Accountants and Auditors, Financial Examiners, and Budget Analysts (see table below), along with 33 other related occupations? Other higher education programs may not have direct ties to specific occupations, which can confuse graduates as to what occupations they should pursue.

NCcareers.org can help identify occupations that match a course of study with the new What Can I Do With My Education tool.  Users enter an educational program name in the first box, select a degree level – Diploma, Certificate, Associates, Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate – in the second box, click the search button and discover all the matching occupations.  

Users will find a list of matching occupations with three different indicators “Good Match”; “Good Match with appropriate skills, knowledge and experience”; or “Potential Match.” 

A “Good Match” indicates that your education program helped you develop the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to be successful in an occupation.  

A “Good Match with appropriate skill, knowledge, or experience” means that your education may be acceptable to potential employers but they may also be looking for some additional knowledge or experience to make you truly competitive for the position.  This may be some additional course work, skill you’ve developed on your own, or experience you received at a previous job.  Consider the connection between an Associate’s Degree in Information Systems Security and a Web Developer.  The Information Systems Security program may prepare you with the foundational skills, but when combined with additional courses or personal experience in web design, it may make you qualify as a Web Developer candidate.      

Finally, a “Potential Match” implies that your education may be acceptable to an employer and match your interests, but not your knowledge or experience.  Your degree alone may not meet an employer’s ideal qualification; however, you may be able to relate your qualifications by highlighting relevant skills, knowledge, and experience on your resume or by providing additional explanation through a cover letter.  Think about how an individual with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology would quality for a Budget Analyst position.  At first glance, there would appear to be no direct connection.  However, if an individual combines the evaluation, problem solving and communication skills obtained as a psychology major with some accounting coursework and an internship or other demonstrated knowledge and experience in math or finance, this individual may become an excellent candidate.  

Each occupation also has an education level descriptor such as “Your education meets the typical minimum required”, “You may be underqualified based on your education level and need additional education”, or “You may have more education than needed, but this could give you a leg up.” These descriptors are based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics minimum education required data and represent the typical minimum education level required to be successful working in an occupation.  Often additional education may be desired for in-demand jobs or during high unemployment.  On the contrary, when there is a labor shortage and employers are having trouble filling positions, employers may be willing to hire candidates who show an ability and desire to do the work but lack formal education credentials.

After reviewing matching occupations and education level descriptors, users can continue the career exploration and view the Occupation Profile page where a wealth of information about that occupation is available. Among other data is a link to active job listings courtesy of NCWorks.gov where job applications can be submitted.

Good luck in your job search!