If you are considering going back to school—whether to earn a degree or learn a new skill—you need to have a plan and determine if this is the right path for you.
Hundreds of adults and other non-traditional students go back to technical school, specialized schools, colleges and universities or training programs every year.
Post-secondary education is never a poor choice, but you also have to weigh the payoff against the cost and time involved with returning to school. Additional degrees and certifications are valuable and can boost your career, but there are four questions you should ask yourself before going back to school.
- Is college the best path for me? For so long, people assumed college was the only path to success and that everyone needed at least a four-year degree. However, community colleges and technical schools offer associate’s degrees or specialized certification in less time that could result in more success. Welders, medical technicians, engineering, and computer technology are all offered through community college and tech schools without the time commitment of a four-year course of study. “A stable career doesn’t always require a four-year degree. Career Technical Education can deliver what so many
want – a promising career at an affordable price,” said Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment Professionals, and a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “I see who’s getting hired in the modern economy, and it’s clear that career tech can lead to not only a job, but also a successful career.”
- Speaking of time, do you have the ability to meet the time requirements of going back to school? Life as an adult can be packed full of work and family obligations. Be honest with yourself about your available time to read, study, or attend classes. Can you manage the stress well and will you have time to enjoy your life and family?
- Can you afford school? School can be expensive, but grants, student loans and programs are available to help. Loans aren’t the only option, and you may be able to take advantage of financial aid. If you don’t qualify, pay as you go, but prepare ahead of time to get a clear picture of how much you need each semester. Check to see if your company offers a tuition reimbursement program that you may qualify for. Many companies offer employees full or partial tuition reimbursement if you’re studying subjects relevant to your current position.
- Can you afford NOT to go back to school? Your education and investing in education could be the biggest pay off in your career. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a 25-year-old male with a bachelor’s degree earns $22,000 more in pay on average than a male with a high school diploma. If your company reimburses tuition expenses, then not taking advantage of schooling is COSTING you money. Look at the advantages to your income, lifestyle and career and make the decision wisely.
Many colleges and universities offer flexible degree programs to accommodate working adults or offer online degree and study programs. Going back to school is a big decision. For many of us working folk, juggling a job and school can be difficult, but it’s probably the best move to bolster both your education and career success.