Going to college to earn a degree in a specific major is the conventional course of action taken by students who wish to earn the credentials needed to build a successful career. However, in addition to attending a physical university, there are other things that students can do to make their resumé more appealing in the eyes of prospective employers.
While education is a primary factor taken into consideration by hiring managers, other attributes like experience, expertise, and accreditations may also play a significant role in determining whether or not an applicant is hired. With that said, here are 4 alternative qualifications students should consider in addition to, or instead of, a conventional on-campus degree program:
1. An Online Degree
Online degree programs from established providers like Kaplan University allow you to study and work at your own pace, so you could easily squeeze an extra degree in during your spare time using a distance learning institution. There’s really no limit to the kind of degrees you can earn online. For example, Kaplan University offers more than 180 different degree programs, all of which can add excellent alternative credentials to a burgeoning resume.
Even if you only spend 30 minutes to an hour on it each day, you’ll be well on your way to earning a degree that will complement or provide a backup to your current career path. After all, it can’t hurt to have more job options available in the long-term.
While many of these programs can be completed in just 24 months, there’s enough leniency in the mandatory course credits per trimester to allow for a much slower pace. This means that even students with busy schedules can get the ball rolling on a second or even third degree program, without having to take time away from their current university commitments.
Furthermore, having more than one degree on your resumé will drastically boost your chances of getting hired in any position, as employers will recognize that you’re significantly invested in your education and skills.
If you’re graduating with a degree in a field that involves launching or managing a business, it may be a good idea to make licensing your next step. For example, a student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management may want to inquire with local municipalities and regulatory agencies about what kind of building permits and licenses they’ll need to operate within the state.
Each jurisdiction will have varying laws in this regard, so this is something that has to be handled on a cases-by-case basis. Likewise, licensing is important for students pursuing careers in trade-based or safety-related industries, such as carpenters, landscapers, inspectors, or chiropractors.
During your education you’ll undoubtedly learn about licensing requirements in greater detail, but many students make the mistake of initially ignoring this alternative credential. By taking the initiative to immediately pursue licensing after graduating, you’ll be putting yourself in a much better position to land jobs, contracts, and projects that pay higher and add more prestige to your portfolio. Along these same lines, it’s also a good idea for any tradesmen or business owner to obtain sufficient insurance coverage for all of their business-related activities.
Aside from adding a fancy mark to your resumé, occupational licensing will also make you eligible for higher-ranking positions that offer better salaries and benefits. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs offers a wide range of professional licensing services. Other organizations that offer occupational licensing include the Department of Health, the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
3. Apprenticeship or Internship
Many degree programs will help you connect students with a suitable apprenticeship or internship in order to equip them with the experience needed to gain momentum early in their careers. Some people consider apprenticeship as a full-blown alternative to earning a degree. However, it can also be a good first step to take after graduation. Many universities partner with large corporations to find their students ideal internships within weeks of earning their degree.
Any profession that requires technical skill and experience is an ideal field for an apprenticeship. Workers that need to build experience in specialized labor (i.e. – plumbers, electricians, technicians, mechanics, etc.) should strongly consider an apprenticeship as a means of earning a living while simultaneously learning the tricks of their trade.
Paid apprentices and interns also tend to pay off their student loans much faster because they’re able to start earning a desirable wage in the early stages of their career. Adversely, there are many degree-holders who wind up resorting to typical retail and restaurant jobs after graduating because they don’t have the experience to match their degree.
Needless to say, adding a positive reference from an apprenticeship to your resumé can help attract the attention of hiring managers. Put simply, if a manager is comparing an applicant with a degree versus an applicant with a degree and an apprenticeship, the latter will usually be interviewed first. Plus, when you’re applying for a position as an apprentice you don’t have to worry about lacking experience, because the employer will literally be expecting you to be a novice.
Similar to occupational and professional licenses, certifications are a great way to prove that you’re skilled and knowledgeable in a specific field. The majority of the top paying certifications are offered in industries related to technology and security, but there are literally thousands of certificates that can add a shiny star to any resumé. On the flip side, the best paying certifications are also the most competitive and the most difficult to obtain, so if a quick and easy route is what you’re after then you may have to settle for a lower salary.
However, since some certificates require a minimum amount of practical experience, we’ve listed this alternative qualification last because it might be something that will have to wait until your career has gained some momentum. On the other hand, it’s worth looking into immediately because there are plenty of certifications that you can earn with no requirements other than a fee and the ability to complete the mandated course.
Most certification processes can be completed within a matter of 4-8 weeks, but be prepared to do some intensive studying in order to pass the final exam. This is a perfect activity for students who are already in studying mode due to existing academic obligations. Of course, having a nice stamped/stickered certificate to laminate, frame, and hang on the wall is also a nice perk that comes with this popular alternative qualification.
Building Up Your Resumé Before Entering the Workforce
Regardless of the industry, newcomers tend to have a harder time landing quality job positions than people who have experience under their belt. Unfortunately, companies have every right to require or prefer experienced applicants. If you heeded the advice given in tip #4 then you should already have some level of experience to offer, but even then, an apprenticeship isn’t given the same weight as actual work experience. Thus, the only way to get around this inevitable disadvantage is to make your resumé look as appealing as possible via the aforementioned alternative qualifications.