Consider Your Career Goals

Identifying a Career/Career Path

You may be interested in online education to advance your career or to change careers. In weighing educational options, it best to work backwards. Begin by determining your career goals and then make your educational choices to maximize your success in that career path. An excellent place to begin is with The Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook provides a table with information on 575 different occupations-from accountants and auditors to zoologists and wildlife biologists-listing: education level, on-the-job training, projected number of new jobs, projected growth rate, and 2015 median pay.

If you are interested in a particular occupation, for example, registered nursing, you can click on that occupation in the table and find more detailed information, under the following tabs: summary, what they do, work environment, how to become one, pay, job outlook, state and area data, similar occupations, more information.

In terms of selecting an online program the “how to become one” tab is especially important. To continue with the registered nursing example, information found in the how-to-become-one tab includes: education; licensing, certifications, and registrations; important qualities [e.g. critical thinking and physical stamina]; advancement.

Check with the Human Resources Office

Once you have settled on a career path, and are thinking about educational options, do some employer-specific research. Identify two or three places where you would like to work. Call the Office of Human Resources, introduce yourself and your career goals, and ask what the educational requirements are for the job(s) you are interested in.  In particular, check to see if-in order to be eligible for employment-you not only need to earn your degree from an accredited institution, but also from a program within that institution that has received separate specialized accreditation.  If, for example, you wish to work at a hospital and it only accepts applicants from nursing programs accredited by CCNE, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, before enrolling in any nursing program, you’ll want to make sure that it has that specialized accreditation. For general information on specialized accreditation in online education, see  For more detailed information on specialized accreditation, see below: Choosing a Program to Prepare for a Career/Career Path. For information on institutional accreditation, see “National versus Regional Accreditation” under “Consider Your Options.”

Choosing a Program to Prepare for a Career/Career Path

The United States Department of Education lists programmatic/specialized accreditation under six headings: arts and humanities; education training; legal; community and social services; personal care services; healthcare.

The U.S. Department of Education makes it easy for you to check on program accreditation at “The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs” For example, if I selected “Wisconsin” and “search” at the following page:, a list of 87 institutions would appear.

By clicking on any one of these institutions in the “site name” column, for example, The University of Wisconsin-Madison, a listing of all its specialized accreditations would appear:

Some questions to consider:

What is the employment outlook in the career(s) I am considering?

Have I checked with Human Resources offices to see if hiring in my prospective profession depends upon specific kinds of accreditation and licensing?

Have I asked Human Resources offices if they recommend some specific schools and programs?

Would I need to take out loans to pay for my education? If so, given the median income statistics provided by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, how long would it take me to repay my school loans?

Last revised on September 29, 2017.