Job research “before” attending college

Originally published in May 2010, I thought I would update this article for those who are currently considering attending a private career/vocational college in the fall of 2012.

Post started here: This post is for all those who are considering applying for admission to any post-secondary institution, whether it is a public university, a public college or a private career college. My message is this: It is your responsibility to figure out if the major or program you want to take is likely to provide a job when you are finished.

True, it would be helpful if all post-secondary institutions didn’t offer programs unless they knew jobs were available, but no one can be that certain.  But, unlike a university degree, where skills can be generalized to any number of occupational fields, public and private career college programs tend to be very job specific.

The Importance of Preliminary Research

So, doing preliminary homework is crucial. Why? Because if you put all your time and money (student loans) into something only to find out, once you have graduated, that there are no jobs, not only will you be unemployed but you will owe a ton of money.

And, if you can’t pay that money back and default, it will have serious consequences all around. It will be a black mark on the college you attended, whether it was private or public. And, it will adversely affect your credit rating, which in turn can make it difficult to rent an apartment, let alone get further financing for a vehicle or anything else.  

That said, the biggest risk is if you are considering attending a private career college, simply because both tuitions and student loan default rates are higher.

Some background on program planning

Mind you, it doesn’t have to be that way. About ten years ago, I was hired as an education consultant for a private career organization that provided completed job-based programs for their franchisees — such as medical receptionist, conference and event planner and administrative assistant. What I did, for nearly a year, was research the most popular employment wanted job classifications online and in major newspapers.

Then, following that, I would research what skills and knowledge were needed for each category. Once all that was done, I developed course outlines and programs for the college. Meaning, that when they got a binder with a completed program, they knew it would mean that graduates of that program would likely find a job.

However, that is not where the preparation stopped. Once the company received the program I developed, it went to the Ontario ministry involved, for final approval. Which means, that the provincial government actually has the final word. So, if there are student loan defaults in private career colleges, keep in mind that the government allowed the program involved to go forward.

No job guarantees

Then, there is the issue that no matter how careful preliminary research is done, by yourself, the institution or the government involved, there are no guarantees. Job popularity, as in what employers are looking for, can change in as little as a few months. But, in the example I provided, it was the best the private franchisor could do — something that few private colleges probably do — paying an expert to match jobs to programs.

Do job research, it’s the least you can do 

So, to anyone who is considering post-secondary education, whether it is private or public, do your homework. Don’t depend on someone else to have done it for you. Read the classified ads in newspapers. Check the various job sites online. Then, when you have a rough idea of what is needed out there, match its skills and expectations to a program somewhere.

And, this is especially true of private career colleges. They are businesses and provide a service just like any other business. They are not running the business solely for altruistic reasons. They have staff to pay, rent and all the other overhead one can expect. And, yes, it is perfectly understandable that the boss would want to turn a profit, as in make a living.

In other words, when you hear “Oh, yes, there are lots of jobs in this or that field,” don’t simply take someone’s word for it. Do your own research. Also, remember that some colleges have better reputations than others. Check out what the student loan default rates are in the program area you are interested in. Truly, the buck stops with you.

Sources

Here are two important links, one a Globe and Mail expose (h/t Jack’s Newswatch) related to the student loan default rate at private colleges and how much they are costing taxpayers as a result, as well as the top ten private college defaulters.

10 thoughts on “Job research “before” attending college

  1. This is a message that needs to get out to students who are about to graduate from high school and are planning to pursue post-secondary studies. There are far too many young people with a bachelor’s degree (or even a post-graduate degree) in a liberal arts field such as history, anthropology, sociology who find that the only job they can get is being the counter at Starbucks. What is really sad is that they now owe thousands (often tens of thousands) of dollars in student loans for a job that a high-school graduate could fill.

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  2. Yes, YES and YES! The post secondary educational system now is an industry and job creator for academics and all support staff and that appears to be it. Same for many professional associations and organizations. The best advice is this: search the job wanted ads! See who is hiring what when and where. What skills are needed and what is paid. If you don’t know what to do then do a general program expecting to do something more focused later. Work for a few years in various jobs to get a feel for the marketplace etc., again if you are confused. I have met lawyers that never practiced and met people that did honors degrees only to stop one course from their completion. Don’t make those mistakes. Remember that our liberal leftist society is about creating socialist enterprise and education is one of the biggest employers so they DON’T CARE IF YOU GET A JOB.

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  3. Yes, YES and YES! The post secondary educational system now is an industry and job creator for academics and all support staff and that appears to be it. Same for many professional associations and organizations. The best advice is this: search the job wanted ads! See who is hiring what when and where. What skills are needed and what is paid. If you don’t know what to do then do a general program expecting to do something more focused later. Work for a few years in various jobs to get a feel for the marketplace etc., again if you are confused. I have met lawyers that never practiced and met people that did honors degrees only to stop one course from their completion. Don’t make those mistakes. Remember that our liberal leftist society is about creating socialist enterprise and education is one of the biggest employers so they DON’T CARE IF YOU GET A JOB.

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  4. I don’t know what the situation is like now but there was a period when students were encouraged to simply pursue whatever interested them and things would work out. That may have been the case once upon a time and is still probably the ideal scenario. The truth these days is that you have enormous numbers of kids chasing fewer jobs in several fields and, like it or not, there’s a need to do whatever is required to prepare oneself for the available jobs. Then you add in the very high cost of attaining a degree and there’s less wiggle room to make do until the dream job comes along.

    I suspect more and more kids trying to get graduate degrees for jobs that may not currently require them is a manifestation of the above. I get a little irked when politicians claim the university and college system should keep expanding until there’s a spot somewhere for everyone who might want to attend.

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  5. Everyone is right. Times have changed and the job market with it. But, cost is not the only consideration. For example, the tuition for the animation program at Sheridan totals somewhere in the $70,000 range last I heard. But, most graduates go on to important jobs in the movie industry or advertising. And, they start with high salaries. So like doctors, they can pay those debts off quickly.

    But, like Barbara says a Liberal arts degree today is not the end of ones education, just a stepping stone because there are few jobs skills for that kind of program — apart from creative thinking and problem solving, which of course are important. But, its fields like Accounting, investment banking, speech therapy, that continue to grow.

    Case in point: I heard the other day that a close friend’s grandson — who is about to graduate in Finance from Notre Dame (and on a sports scholarship) just got hired by JP Morgan Chase in the US with a starting salary of $55,000 US and a signing bonus. His first job no less. But, he had a first class resume and when his interview was finished, he sent a thank you card. That’s what it takes. To be noticed.

    In fact, the homework I am talking about should start in Grade 9 or 10 so that students have the pre-requisite credits they need later on. Something all parents of teens need to help their children do — and not depend solely on a Guidance Teacher. While they can provide advice, they haven’t the time to do the complete search for every student.

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  6. Certainly good points. Unfortunately, so much can change in the span of 4-5 years that it is almost useless.

    What would really help students? If the Boomers had properly prepared for retirement. The sooner you leave the work force, the better. Boomers currently hold many positions, top-to-bottom, and are increasingly reluctant to retire. How can a Millennial get a job if Generation X members are competing for the same positions, with more experience?

    Retire. Them. All.

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  7. When our daughters were younger, they all looked at theatre and the arts as being really cool options. Our response was simply: “and how do you propose to feed yourself?”. They all chose different, more remunerative, paths and are happy professionals today.

    Some years ago, I was at a family anniversary and met a cousin’s child who had just finished a degree in – as I remember – philosophy and English. I posed the same query to him. His response was to the effect that his parents were asking the same question but that he’d really enjoyed his university time. Last I heard, he was doing quite well in some branch of publishing. There was a young man who took what he wanted and knew he’d have to work hard to find a job. He was English, and I don’t think they have our student loan system, so he would be only in debt to his parents, not to the general public via student loans.

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  8. Sandy, glad you mentioned the animation program at Sheridan College which is a success. That program has high standards, reaches out to industry and limits enrollment. That is why getting through that program pays off for those that do it. But such is not the case with much post secondary education in this country today. One of the big problems is the lack of interaction between the schools and business itself, at least in Europe they tend to do this more, particularly in Germany.

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  9. Excellent advice Sandy. My youngest was fascinated with construction TV shows–Mike Holmes, et al. I suggested that he think about a career in it. My dad, his grandfather, made a very good living in construction. Jobs in the field can range from skilled trades to job cost estimation to construction management and anything in between. And you can own your own business, like my dad did.

    Kids should investigate demographics to see what will be needed in the future.
    Too many kids thought they would go into teaching and now can’t find any jobs.

    A university degree today is what a high school diploma was 40 years ago.

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