Once you've gotten yourself a mentor then what? Generally, you're going to need some sort of education that qualifies you to get a job or practice as a professional in your chosen field. Deciding what sort of education to pursue can very difficult for prospective students.
Besides getting advice from a mentor or a respected professional in the field, how does one go about evaluating and selecting a school? Generally, the best place to begin such a search is to create a list of schools that offer an accredited course of study in the field you're interested in. Determining whether the program at a particular school (university or trade) is accredited or not is generally not that difficult to figure out. Accredited programs will generally announce that fact on their websites and admissions materials. You can check the validity of accreditation claims by checking with accrediting organizations. For example, although many schools offer course of study in Interior Design, not all of these schools have accredited programs. The Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER) is the organization that accredits interior design programs, and it provides a list of member institutions on its website. Similarly, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the accrediting body for the field of Engineering. It also provides a list of accredited institutions on its website.
It is generally best to attend an accredited program if there is an accrediting system established for your chosen field. The benefit of doing so is that it will give you an advantage over those who did not attend an accredited school. In some professions you may not be able to become licensed if you graduate from a non-accredited school. The competition for jobs has become extreme in the last few years. Many highly qualified people have been downsized (have lost their employment) and are vying for the same jobs as less-experienced candidates. Thus, it has becoming increasingly important for job seekers to do everything in their power to position themselves to get good jobs. Selecting an accredited program at a well-respected school is an important step. Simply put, it could mean the difference between getting the job or not or starting at a higher rate of pay.
There is no formal education available for many skilled trades,. If this is the case for the career you have chosen, an apprenticeship is a viable alternative. An apprenticeship is arrangement where you receive a combination of on-the-job training and instruction from a master of the field you wish to enter. It is a very practical, hands-on approach to education. You can find apprenticeship opportunities sponsored by employers, skilled-labor unions, and other associations. The U.S. Department of Labor also maintains a list of available apprenticeships.