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Should You Go Back To School To Help Your Career?

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Can’t chase your dream job because you’re underqualified? Returning to education could allow you to get the qualification you need. Of course, there are pros and cons that need to be considered before making this decision - education is a big commitment. Here are just several considerations before returning to education.

It’s never too late to go back to school

Some people put off returning to education because they feel they’re too old. This should never be a sole excuse for forgoing education – you can pursue an education at any age. The number of mature students across the world is growing. Whilst most of these students study online to work more easily around commitments (more on this later), a number of mature students do still choose to study on campus (you won’t be the only mature student in the lecture hall if that’s what you’re worried about).

Studying can take a long time

Some qualifications take a lot of time to achieve. Most degrees take a minimum of three years. If you need to make a career shift quickly, you may not want to wait three whole years. This is something to carefully consider.

There are now accelerated courses that take two years instead of three, usually by missing out the breaks that the three year courses have. If two years is still too long, then another option could be to consider short courses and other non-degree forms of qualification. Some of these qualifications could be enough to separate you from applicants that have no credentials at all, even if it isn’t quite a degree.

You’ll need to consider the costs

Education often isn’t cheap. You’ll need to cover study fees by either paying them out of your own pocket or by taking out a loan. Most people take out a loan, although it can be a lot more expensive in the long run. If you have the means to pay for tuition fees out of your own pocket, it could be a better investment (you’ll likely need to be earning a lot or have savings to rely on).

There are some foreign courses that are cheaper to study in. Some countries like Germany even have free education. This could be something to consider if you want to save money - some of these courses can be taken online, although many may require you to migrate over, which may not always be feasible.

On top of this, there are employer-sponsored courses out there that are also essentially free. This is when the employer of a company pays for a student’s entire tuition in the condition that they then work for that company after they’ve graduated. These courses are few and far between and those that do exist tend to be very competitive – but they’re still worth a shot.

You may need to juggle other commitments

One of the biggest drawbacks to returning back to education later in life is that you’re no longer as free as you once were. You may have a home to look after and bills to pay, which will require continuing work. You may even have kids to look after whilst studying and working.

Online courses are often the best way to work your studies around these commitments. By studying online, you can pick and choose your own study hours to fit around your lifestyle rather than having to attend lectures and seminars at set times. Studying around these commitments will be hard – especially if you’re working and looking after kids – and you may have to temporarily give up what little free time you have left for yourself. Keeping a study schedule could help you to stay on target with education by ensuring that you’re always getting a certain amount of study hours in each week.

If you’re chasing an education in order to switch career, you probably don’t want to tell your employer as they may feel it doesn’t align with their company goals. You should however tell your professors and tutors about any commitments – there may be extra funding that you’re eligible for or privileges that you may be able to gain to make juggling these commitments easier.

Qualifications aren’t always necessary

Qualifications may not always be necessary for your career goals. This is worth looking into first before chasing an education.

For instance, you can get into marketing without a marketing degree. You’ll have to still do your homework and prove your knowledge to an employer – this could include evidence of successful freelance work or the fact that you own marketing blog - but a degree may not be a necessity. 

Similarly, you should be careful of returning to education if you already have a degree, even if it’s not relevant to your dream career. You may be surprised by the scope of your degree - a qualification such as nursing may seem restrictive, but there are actually many career paths for nurses. Other degrees meanwhile can be fairly general and may allow you to get into many trades without having to take other courses (English and Maths are two examples of broad degrees – returning to education to get another qualification may not be necessary.).  

Employers do look favorably upon education

Whilst qualifications aren’t always needed for certain jobs, many employers may still look upon them favorably. When applying to roles that are likely to be very competitive, having a qualification could help you to stand out from applicants that aren’t qualified. This is something to weigh up.

You need to be willing to learn

This is the most important factor to consider when returning to education. Only by wanting to learn will you have the motivation to complete any course you take up. Education should be more than a means to an end but something that you enjoy. It will likely still be challenging even if you’re passionate about learning, however, it will be a lot more difficult if you have no passion at all. 


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