10 College Courses That Will Pay Off at Work

What courses should you take to get a jump on your professional life? Here are 10 examples.

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Legal Skills Program—William and Mary Law School

Throughout the two-year program, students are not only taught law, but given the chance to practice it. Students take on simulated cases from genesis to conclusion. Along the way, they receive courtroom technology training and have access to an on-campus courtroom where they try their cases. Participation in the program is required of William and Mary law students. "The program provides students opportunities to learn the skills and professional responsibilities of attorneys," says Suzanne Seurattan, a William and Mary spokesperson. "The skills taught in the program provide our law students with training they would otherwise not receive until they were on the job."

Entrepreneurship Minor— Villanova School of Business

At Villanova University's Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship, students take four courses over a year, helping them earn a minor in entrepreneurship. As the year progresses, students form their own ideas for business ventures and present them to peers. After presentations are made, the class selects the most viable ideas and forms groups that work together to analyze and develop the ideas. Each class has two instructors: a full-time faculty member and an entrepreneur who has found success outside of academia. Occasionally, students are given the option to continue their projects beyond the classes if the business plan is well received by investors during a year-end pitch. "More and more, companies are placing a value on these entrepreneurial talents and it is incumbent on us to help our students differentiate themselves in this regard," says Patrick Maggitti, director of the ICE Center. "[By year's end], all are better prepared to face tough questions and make presentations in a way that tells a compelling story with rock solid support."

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Speaking to Lead and Influence—St. Catherine University

This course, offered at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. Minn., is designed to make students—whatever their career aspirations are—more comfortable with their office communication skills. While traditional speech classes tend to hone in on public speaking, this course attempts to instill confidence in students across an array of forums—interviews, in meetings, and group presentations, among others. "We're teaching students how to express what they think in a way that's more effective," says the instructor of the class, Elizabeth Otto. "I defy you to name a job where that's not an important part of the job function."

Leadership, Ethics, Accountability and Professionalism (LEAP)—Arizona State University W. P. Carey School of Business

Oftentimes seniors or graduate students are privy to interaction with corporate leaders, while freshmen toil away in classes more general in nature. At Arizona State University, however, it's the freshmen who get to work closely with seven of the nation's largest accounting firms. All accounting majors participate in the LEAP class, which Clinical Professor Phil Drake, who oversees the class, says has a two-pronged benefit. First, it allows students early in their college career to get a firm grasp on what accounting is and whether or not it's right for them. He claims the class confirms the choice of majors for some students, while others realize they should go in a different direction. Such a change is more easily accomplished as a freshman than later in college. Additionally, it allows students to establish and maintain relationships with employers that may hire them once their diploma is in hand. "It's a win-win for the students as well as the participating firms," he says. "They get a much deeper understanding of accounting early on."

IT Project Management—Harrisburg University of Science and Technology

Offered on both the graduate and undergraduate level, Harrisburg University's IT project management courses prepare students for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam. It's a certification that many can't attain without years of IT experience. A decade ago, such classes didn't exist, but are now a near necessity for IT students looking to find meaningful employment immediately after graduation. Students leave school prepared to start their careers as IT management professionals and enjoy the six-figure salary that typically accompanies the title.