After the 2008 recession, many people around the country were laid off, fired, or lost their benefits at work. As with any crisis, a need for change was felt throughout our society. Mostly out of necessity, there was a shift in focus to becoming self-employed or starting a new career.
Because of this shift, there has been increased interest by adults already in the workforce in going back to school to further their education and better their career prospects. However, with a weakened and highly volatile economy, it hasn’t been an easy road. Job growth has been slow, and lax lending practices have led to an astronomical amount of student loan debt. So, is it worth it for adults looking to go back to school?
Evaluate Your Reasons
It’s important to look at why you want to go back to school in the first place. Are you unemployed and have run out of options? Have you reached a roadblock in your current career because you lack an advanced degree? Is your current job situation unfulfilling and you want a career change? Or do you just yearn for a stimulating learning environment that will help you grow as a person?
Whatever your reasoning is, use that as your starting point to figure out if continuing your education makes sense concerning your personal life, financial situation, and career goals.
Think About Your Goals
Having an attainable goal is essential when considering student life again. Are you looking to finish a degree you previously started? If so, think about why you dropped out in the first place before taking the plunge again.
Are you at a better place in your life where you can fully commit to finishing your degree? Many degrees can be completed online at your own pace if you’re not able to go back to school full-time. If you already have a degree, are you looking to obtain a new, more advanced degree or a secondary degree? What is the motivating factor for wanting to pursue more education?
Examining your educational and career goals will help you determine if they complement each other in such a way that going back to school makes sense.
Consider Your Industry
If you are looking to move up in your current career to a higher paying job, consider the industry you’re in. Does the position you desire require an advanced degree? Many careers in tech, medicine, engineering and science do, but oftentimes adequate experience can be supplemented for a degree.
Do some research and find out what kind of educational qualifications others have had in the career you’re hoping for. It’s also important to evaluate the outlook in employment for your field. Is there a surplus of graduates with the degree you are considering or a deficit?
Weigh Up Cost vs. Reward
Salary difference is usually a motivating factor when choosing to go back to school, but consider the cost vs. the reward. Is the cost of school an amount you can make back relatively quickly? Ideally, any loans you take out should be less than the salary you expect to make once you finish school. If it’s not, it might be best to go a different route like auditing classes or getting a specialized certification.
Something else to consider when looking at the cost of going back to school is your qualification for financial aid. Many scholarships are designated for students seeking bachelor degrees, full-time students, or those specifically just out of high school. While there are scholarships and grants for older students or those taking classes at their own pace, remember that many of them also require a special interest, low income, or diversity specifications.
Full-Time vs. Part-Time
When looking at getting a new degree due to a career change, enrolling as a full-time degree-seeking student can be beneficial. For one, you will have better access to a college or university’s resources, including their career center. Student advisors can point you in the right direction toward finding employment or an internship in your new field.
In some states, prestigious internships are only offered to those students enrolled full-time at a university. Whether paid or unpaid, these internships are an invaluable foot in the door that would be near impossible without the help of a university.
Going to classes and pursuing a degree will also give you access to a network of others entering your chosen field and can be instrumental in helping you find employment after graduation.
What’s Right For You?
Whatever your reason for wanting to go back to school, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. Only you can decide what’s right for you personally, but don’t forget to consult with your employer too. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement or pay for employees’ educational expenses if it is beneficial to them to do so.
If you aren’t able to attend classes in person, there are plenty of online classes and online-only universities. Alternative forms of education should also be considered, like skill-specific classes, workshops, and retreats.
Education can be an expensive undertaking at any stage of life. Your financial situation, career prospects, and personal time commitments should be taken into account before you can really determine if going back to school is worth it for you.