You’ve heard the sayings. “Knowledge is power.” “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” And, of course, in the wise words of Doctor Seuss–“The more that you know, the more places you’ll go.” If these adages are true, a lack of knowledge could prove a dangerous thing, rendering you powerless, collecting little interest, and going nowhere.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of purveyors of knowledge offering a course in just about any subject. And thanks to a myriad of schooling options, you can study said subject practically anytime, anywhere. Yes, whether you need to brush up on a few skills for work or you long to pursue a lengthy, career-changing degree, there has never been a better time to become a mature student than now.
In fact, adults are re-entering the hallowed halls of learning at a swift pace. According to Forbes‘ “12 Tips for Professionals Who Want to Go Back to School,” the National Center for Education Statistics reports that 33 percent of undergraduates in the United States are over 25 years old, while 22 percent are over the age of 30. This number is expected to continue to rise, with a projected increase of 20 percent in enrollments over the age of 25. But, before hitting the books, there are a few things to consider.
Is School Right for You?
A return to college life may be a viable option for you–or it might not. Before embarking on an academic journey, ask yourself a few questions.
Will it pay off? Tuition and books do not come cheaply, and these costs will be compounded if you need to quit or decrease your hours at work. You will need to weigh these expenses against the likelihood of you securing a job that will make this financial gamble worth it. U.S. News‘ “Should You Go Back to School for Your Career?” recommends looking into the wide variety of assistance programs available through the federal government such as loans, work study programs, scholarships, grants, and tax benefits to defray costs.
Will my other commitments suffer? If you are already struggling to juggle your career, your family, and your social life, you may decide that school commitments could prove to be the proverbial straw that rendered the camel’s back broken. Stretching yourself too thin will not only cause your relationships and your job to suffer, but it will also make it difficult to complete school assignments on time, produce quality work, and absorb what you learn.
Will a return to school help me achieve my goals? Perhaps, you are well-suited to returning to school. The next thing to ensure is that furthering your education is actually necessary in order to fulfill your goals. “Is Going Back to School Your Best Path to Career Growth?” recommends conducting thorough research into the specific expertise, specialization, and depth of experience that employers in your desired position expect viable candidates to possess. There is no point in forking out for an education that you don’t need or can’t use.
Once you have determined that school is the right move for you, you can begin to look forward to the benefits that you will reap.
What can school do for me?
Furthering your education will provide you with a multitude of benefits–some you may not have even considered.
Develop a network. Your instructors and classmates will not only impart their knowledge to you, but they will also become part of a valuable professional network of colleagues and contacts.
Update stale skills. Perhaps, you were once at the top of your A-game, but your skills have become outdated. Brushing up on existing knowledge and mastering new competencies will not only improve your ability to do your job, but it will boost your confidence.
Scale the ladder. Have you have felt trapped in a dead-end job with little or no room for advancement? Gaining new knowledge may prove to be the ticket to a great promotion. It can also lead to a substantial raise. According to “What Online Learning Can Do for Your Career,” a Bureau of Labor Statistics study revealed that individuals who hold a Master’s Degree earn an average of $1257 per week, more than double the $626 earned by high school graduates. If you already hold a Bachelor’s Degree and are thinking of completing a graduate degree, “Is it Time to Go Back to School?” asserts that a Georgetown study found that workers with graduate degrees average between $60,000 and $100,000 per year. That’s a nice chunk of change.
Land a hot new career. If you choose your course of study wisely, you could find yourself in demand–a hot commodity. According to “5 Careers Worth Returning to School for in 2014,” there will be 20.5 million new jobs created by 2020 and the jobs that will grow the fastest include positions as veterinarians, personal care aides, biomedical engineers, physical therapist assistants, and diagnostic medical sonographers.
A return to school is not for everyone, but, if it is a viable option for you, it could pay off. Big time. So, don’t just stand there looking at your laptop. You’ve got decisions to make.