The field of healthcare is so broad that colleges offer to guide prospective students in narrowing down their choices for a major. Students who already know what they want to major in still must ask many questions of the schools and of themselves.
Preparing for a healthcare career involves a lot of research and discernment, even before college begins. Students who aren't sure of a major should select a college that offers a broad spectrum of healthcare courses, according to Nicole Merz, a counselor at Minneapolis Technical and Community College. Many healthcare majors share prerequisites, so delaying the choice or switching majors may be easy.
Merz guides students who aren't sure of a major online to www.iseek.org, which lists career and job growth information, as well as expected average salaries specific to Minnesota. "If you want radiologic technology, it will tell you all the colleges in the state of Minnesota that offer that program," she says. "You can contrast and compare."
What's your motivation?
The admissions staff at the College of St. Catherine guides students toward a major by helping them discern their motivation. Someone who initially expresses interest in nursing, for example, might switch to occupational therapy once that motivation becomes clear, says Greg Steenson, St. Kate's director of nontraditional admissions. "We try to gently challenge people to explore before they commit," Steenson says.
Narrowing it down
Once a student chooses a major (which is necessary to receive financial aid), there are several factors to consider in selecting a college, according to Merz and Steenson.
The admissions process: Is there a waiting list, as in many nursing degree programs? When are applications accepted?
How long does it take to finish the degree? Prerequisites might stretch a two-year degree to four years.
Competitiveness of the program: What is the required GPA for admission?
Employment rate for graduates. Colleges can provide this information if you ask.
Cost and availability of financial aid.
Class size and student body composition. "You can learn a lot about a place, and if it's a good fit, by learning what kinds of other students go there," Steenson says.
Class schedule: "Hours of the program are huge," Merz says. "Some will offer night and weekend classes and some just days."
Licensure requirements in order to practice.
"We want people to make a smart choice, " say Steenson, rather than realize midway through school or after beginning a career that they've made a mistake. "It's in our own interest to have students who are in a program that's the right fit for them."