As you compare different online colleges to find the right school for you, you’re bound to run into the phrase “career-focused.” Because so many online students are nontraditional students or working professionals trying to advance or change their careers, it’s no wonder that online colleges are increasingly emphasizing the development of career skills. As a student, you’re probably wondering what exactly career-focused means and whether a career-focused school is the right choice for you.

What It Means to Be Career-Focused

Career-focused online college degree programs take many forms, but what they have in common is a primary goal of providing an education that prepares students for a career, rather than simply for the sake of getting an education. Some attributes commonly found in career-focused college programs include:

  • Instructors who are accomplished professionals in the field
  • A networking component that puts students in touch with recruiters, potential employers and others in the industry
  • Internship requirements that allow students to gain hands-on experience
  • Customized degree options
  • Degree programs in subjects in which job growth is rapid, like healthcare and other science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields
  • The opportunity to earn credits for what students already know through a competency-based curriculum

How Career-Focused Should Colleges Be?

Exactly how career-focused a school should be remains the subject of debate.

On one hand, critics fear that the trend can lead to college curricula that are too narrowly focused, The New York Times reported. If this happens, schools will fail to provide students with strong abilities in communication and other skillsets that, while not technical, are versatile and important across many vocations.

On the other hand, though, programs that are too rooted in academics and don’t have enough of a career focus can leave graduates poorly prepared for the working world beyond school. These students can’t find a job or get ahead in the career they have. They may actually be worse off than if they hadn’t gone to college at all, since they may now have the additional financial obligation of repaying their student loan debt.

The Benefits of a Career-Focused Online Education 

Choosing whether or not a strong focus on career is important in your school search is a personal decision. Some online college students are all business, wanting to earn their degree fast so they can advance their careers as quickly as possible. If this sounds like you, then a career-focused school may be the perfect choice for you. You will learn the most valuable career skills from professionals with real-world experience in the industry.

Students who are all about intellectual growth and personal development might prefer a more academic program that puts more emphasis on theory than technical skills and practical application. For students who fall somewhere in between, who want to enhance their job prospects but also grow intellectually, a career-focused program can provide them with the skills they need but still allow the opportunity to learn more about the academic subjects that interest them.