How Are Educational Goals & Career Goals Different?

If you're majoring in forensic accounting but daydream about opening an international travel hostel, it may be time to rethink educational goals.

If a college counselor ever asks you to define your education goals and career goals, you will need to come up with a better response than a blank stare. Being able to articulate your education and career goals is a basic part of being a college student. Defining the concepts of education goals and career goals will help you begin to develop your response. Although these goals share some similarities, they are different in crucial ways.


Educational Goals

Educational goals relate to your plans for formal education; in most cases, this refers to college. Your educational goals might include completing a certain type of degree; for example, a bachelor's degree in science or a Master of Arts degree in literature. Educational goals might also include maintaining a sufficient grade point average (GPA) to qualify for a school's honors program or dean's list. Plans to study abroad, participate in research projects with a mentor professor or become certified in a specific skill fall under the category of educational goals. If you plan to earn multiple degrees; for example, complete a bachelor's degree in political science before transferring to another university to earn a law degree, this would be included under educational goals.


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Career Goals

Career goals differ from educational goals in that they relate to your long-term plans for employment. Career goals might include earning professional certification to practice in a certain field, starting a company or transitioning from entry-level positions within a company to leadership positions. Career goals help map transitions between different jobs in the same field; for example, goals for becoming a high school principal might include first meeting goals for substitute teaching, teaching high school, working as an assistant principal at a high school and working as a middle school principal.



College applications and scholarship applications sometimes ask you to describe your educational and career goals in an essay. Educational goals address your plans for college; career plans outline what you plan to do with your college education in the work force. Distinguish between your education goals and career goals to demonstrate that you have clear, separate goals for each category. However, spend time explaining how the two categories are complementary or interrelated. This becomes especially key when there is not a clear link. For example, a scholarship panelist might be confused about why a student with plans for a career in journalism would double-major in biology and statistics. Explaining that you want to be a science reporter able to run complicated data analysis on research findings helps clarify your educational goals.



Distinguishing between your educational goals and career goals can also be insightful for personal reasons outside of scholarship applications. If your stated career goal is to become a phlebotomist but you wish to study Spanish poetry as an undergraduate before completing a doctoral degree in medieval street theater, perhaps it is time to take a second look at your career goal. One similarity between educational and career goals is that both may both significantly evolve as you progress in your education and life experiences.