How to Maximize Career Impact With An Accelerated Degree

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Key Infor­ma­tion:

  • Accel­er­at­ed degrees allow faster grad­u­a­tion and can reduce edu­ca­tion costs sig­nif­i­cant­ly.
  • Fast- track degrees like a Bach­e­lor of Nurs­ing Sci­ence (BSN), direct­ly pre­pare you for spe­cif­ic careers.
  • After your degree, engag­ing in fur­ther edu­ca­tion and pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment can lead to high­er posi­tions and broad­er career oppor­tu­ni­ties.

Accel­er­at­ed bach­e­lor’s degrees have become increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar options to advance your career or switch careers alto­geth­er. The Bach­e­lor of Nurs­ing Sci­ence (BSN) is a great exam­ple of this. In as lit­tle as a year to 18 months, you can com­plete a BSN and begin your nurs­ing career.

But, not all accel­er­at­ed bachelor’s degrees have such a clear­ly defined career path after grad­u­a­tion. So, as you near the end of your accel­er­at­ed pro­gram, what steps should you take to ensure your degree has the most impact on your future career? This guide offers that very kind of tar­get­ed career advice!


Understanding the Value of an Accelerated Degree

Accel­er­at­ed degrees offer much in the way of advan­tages for you and employers:

  • Faster com­ple­tion time
  • Reduced tuition costs, fees, and oth­er expenses
  • Faster entrance into the workforce
  • Abil­i­ty to quick­ly advance your career
  • Employ­ers gain well-trained employ­ees sooner

Strategic Career Planning

Career plan­ning for accel­er­at­ed grad­u­ates is of the utmost impor­tance. In fact, choos­ing an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram based on career plan­ning is prob­a­bly your best bet; that way, your degree aligns specif­i­cal­ly with your career goals.

Part of the career plan­ning process should be iden­ti­fy­ing spe­cif­ic jobs or indus­tries that place a high val­ue on work­ers who are ambi­tious, dri­ven, and quick learn­ers. Accord­ing to Indeed, all three of these traits are high­ly val­ued by employ­ers in just about all sec­tors of the econ­o­my. But, to nar­row your career search, con­sid­er the fol­low­ing ques­tions that can help you align your strengths with the ide­al career:

  • What soft skills (e.g., com­mu­ni­ca­tion, hon­esty, loy­al­ty) do you pos­sess, and what careers empha­size those par­tic­u­lar skills?
  • What hard skills does your intend­ed career require? What degree pro­gram can you enroll in that helps you acquire hard skills that you don’t already possess?
  • What careers offer good advance­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties and val­ue employ­ees who active­ly approach con­tin­ued learning?

Leveraging Internships and Work Experience

A lit­tle career plan­ning goes a long way, but to max­i­mize the val­ue of your degree and its applic­a­bil­i­ty to your intend­ed career path, you should seek out intern­ships to gain rel­e­vant work experience.

Depend­ing on your field of study, you might com­plete a few weeks of intern­ship, sev­er­al months, or longer. Dur­ing that time, you’ll gain prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence that you can apply imme­di­ate­ly in a job after you graduate.

There’s anoth­er ben­e­fit of intern­ships: they’re incred­i­ble net­work­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. Many stu­dents who com­plete an intern­ship end up work­ing for the orga­ni­za­tion where they interned. And if that doesn’t hap­pen, the pro­fes­sion­al con­nec­tions you make dur­ing the intern­ship can lead to job oppor­tu­ni­ties elsewhere.

Com­plet­ing intern­ships for accel­er­at­ed degrees is tough work. They require exten­sive hours of com­mit­ment out­side of the time you need to study for your class­es. The work­load is increased in an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram, though, so bal­anc­ing the demands of school and your intern­ship respon­si­bil­i­ties is a must. Here are a few tips for doing just that:

  • Cre­ate a con­sis­tent sched­ule from one day to the next, with des­ig­nat­ed time for course­work, intern­ship work, and per­son­al time.
  • Ask for help when you need it, whether it’s team­ing up with a class­mate to study, hitch­ing a ride to your intern­ship with a cowork­er, or ask­ing your sig­nif­i­cant oth­er to man­age the kids for an evening so you can study.
  • Uti­lize resources with­in your pro­gram (e.g., tutor­ing) to help you stay on top of your coursework.
  • Take fre­quent breaks from study­ing to stay ener­gized and focused.
  • Empha­size a good diet, exer­cise, and a good work-life balance.

Building a Professional Network

There are many net­work­ing strate­gies for grad­u­ates of accel­er­at­ed pro­grams. The key is iden­ti­fy­ing which tech­niques work best for you. Some pop­u­lar net­work­ing options are list­ed in the table below:

Net­work­ing StrategyBen­e­fits for Fast-Track Graduates
Con­sult accel­er­at­ed degree alum­ni networksPre­vi­ous grad­u­ates of your pro­gram might have insights into job search ideas, indus­try con­nec­tions, and effec­tive and easy-to-access resources at your school.
Keep in touch with class­mates and professorsYour clos­est con­tacts from your degree pro­gram might be the most valu­able. Stay­ing in touch is easy, espe­cial­ly if you start net­work­ing while you’re still in the program.
Use online plat­forms like LinkedInPost­ing your resume online allows you to cast a wide net while allow­ing com­pa­nies to access your infor­ma­tion quick­ly and easily.
Attend offline events in your industryPound­ing the pave­ment is still a very valu­able way to make con­nec­tions with poten­tial employ­ers. Go to events armed with your busi­ness card and have a pitch about your val­ue as an employ­ee well-tuned. These face-to-face meet­ings can be the most impact­ful type of net­work­ing because of the oppor­tu­ni­ty to build rapport.

Skills Enhancement Beyond the Degree

After grad­u­at­ing, it’s impor­tant to com­mit your­self to con­tin­ued learn­ing. Skill enhance­ment for accel­er­at­ed pro­grams occurs in a short time­line. And you can con­tin­ue acquir­ing new skills in short order after the com­ple­tion of your pro­gram. The ques­tion is, what skills should you focus on building?

The short answer is this: iden­ti­fy key skills that com­ple­ment your degree and enhance your employ­a­bil­i­ty. For exam­ple, if your degree is relat­ed to com­put­er sci­ence, con­sid­er bol­ster­ing your cod­ing skills by enrolling in a cod­ing bootcamp.

You can find oppor­tu­ni­ties for skills enhance­ment in many venues. Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­grams, online cours­es for accel­er­at­ed grad­u­ates, and work­shops are avail­able from many sources online and offline.

Crafting Your Personal Brand

Per­son­al brand­ing for fast-track degrees is an essen­tial com­po­nent of max­i­miz­ing your career search. Devel­op­ing a per­son­al brand helps you stand out from oth­er job appli­cants and also helps you make a last­ing impres­sion when you’re net­work­ing. Use the fol­low­ing tips to artic­u­late your unique skills and experiences:

  • Focus on accom­plish­ments: Your resume should list your skills and abil­i­ties, but pro­vid­ing con­crete exam­ples of how you used those skills and abil­i­ties to accom­plish some­thing is much more impactful.
  • Keep your resume sim­ple: Avoid dis­cussing every skill, abil­i­ty, tal­ent, etc. on your resume. Focus only on what’s applic­a­ble to the spe­cif­ic job for which you’re applying.
  • Back up your expe­ri­ence with details: In an inter­view, pro­vide quan­tifi­able details about your expe­ri­ence. What specif­i­cal­ly did you do? How did your work have a pos­i­tive impact?
  • Dress the part: Your per­son­al brand has a lot to do with how you present your­self. Go into inter­views well-dressed, well-groomed, and ready to dis­cuss why you’d be a valu­able asset.
  • Prac­tice ahead of time: Under­stand­ing your brand requires you to think a lot about who you are as an employ­ee. Take time before an inter­view to con­sid­er what your unique sell­ing propo­si­tion is.

Exploring Further Education

An accel­er­at­ed degree is a good start, but pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment post-accel­er­a­tion makes you an even more desir­able job can­di­date. You’ll have more skills, deep­er knowl­edge, and improved qual­i­fi­ca­tions to use to advance to a high­er-lev­el position.

Fur­ther edu­ca­tion after accel­er­at­ed degree pro­grams can take many forms:

  • Grad­u­ate school
  • A pro­fes­sion­al degree
  • A pro­fes­sion­al, aca­d­e­m­ic, or indus­try certification
  • Pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment or con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion courses

The key is when to pur­sue addi­tion­al edu­ca­tion to advance your career goals. Less intense tasks like pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment fall into the cat­e­go­ry of con­tin­u­ous learn­ing for degree hold­ers. You’ll com­plete these activ­i­ties reg­u­lar­ly and are often required to do so right from the start of your career.

A more involved edu­ca­tion, like a master’s degree, is usu­al­ly more appro­pri­ate after you’ve been in the work­force for a few years. This allows you to refine your cur­rent skills while also iden­ti­fy­ing the spe­cif­ic train­ing you need to advance in your cur­rent job or pur­sue dif­fer­ent career goals. Being strate­gic about the tim­ing of anoth­er degree will help you save time and mon­ey while max­i­miz­ing the val­ue and ben­e­fit of your degree.

Get­ting a degree is one thing; find­ing a job is anoth­er! Use the fol­low­ing job search strate­gies for fast-track grad­u­ates to find the best opportunities:

Job Search StrategyImple­men­ta­tion
Search ear­ly and oftenStart­ing your job search ear­ly gets you ahead of the game — and ahead of oth­er applicants
Get your ref­er­ences lined outHave at least three ref­er­ences arranged before you grad­u­ate who can speak direct­ly to your aca­d­e­m­ic and/or pro­fes­sion­al abilities.
Cast a wide net, but be focusedUse mul­ti­ple job search tools (online, offline, job fairs, etc.) to find the largest selec­tion of jobs, but ensure your search is focused only on jobs that are attain­able and of interest.
Tai­lor your pitchWhen apply­ing for jobs, tai­lor your resume and cov­er let­ter to each spe­cif­ic job.
Keep a logMake a spread­sheet that tracks the jobs you’ve applied for, any respons­es you’ve received, and fol­low-ups you need to make to ensure oppor­tu­ni­ties don’t slip by.

Last­ly, dis­cuss your accel­er­at­ed degree as an asset. Think of how the skills need­ed to suc­cess­ful­ly mas­ter a fast-track pro­gram can ben­e­fit poten­tial employ­ers. You have to be detail-ori­ent­ed, orga­nized, and effi­cient. As an accel­er­at­ed stu­dent, you must also be ambi­tious, dri­ven, and goal-ori­ent­ed. Your degree is tan­gi­ble evi­dence of hav­ing these and oth­er high-val­ue skills.