CAREER DEVELOPMENT / JUL. 18, 2016
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Career Shift: Should I Go Back to School?

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Changing careers is extremely difficult and emotionally taxing, without the right credentials it can even be risky. Will going back to school help you?

The most frequent reason mid-career professionals decide to continue their education is so they can make a career shift. Many of them are frustrated with their current working conditions, demotivated by the lack of professional growth in their current position or are disengaged due to office politics. Returning to school when shifting or changing careers is usually a wise choice, as it can refresh your knowledge base and equip you with updated knowledge in your field. But, it can also be extremely time consuming and a significant financial burden.

Will returning to school increase your employment opportunities or just end up emotionally and financially draining? Let’s take a look to see if you should go back to school before you make a career shift.

Assess

What are the reasons behind your decision? What results do you expect? Is the field of study you want to follow something you are passionate about or do you see it as an escape? After you objectively assess these items, you need to factor in how much of a difference an increase of your academic credentials will make. For example, we frequently hear the statistic that a college graduate’s earning potential is roughly 2.7 million dollars over a lifetime, which is 84% more than non-college graduates.

But, if you already have a degree and opt for another undergraduate degree in a different field, especially if the field isn’t applicable to the job you have or the job you want, then there might not even be an observable effect on your overall quality of life or job satisfaction. But, if you chose something that will augment knowledge you already have in your field, then going back to school will undoubtedly yield positive results.

If you are pursuing further education as a way to get away from a situation that you feel is inescapable, then you might be making your decision in desperation. This will result in a lack of resolve when you are going through a bottleneck of increased workload and responsibilities. If you made the choice to continue your education because you are truly passionate about it, then no matter what you will overcome any obstacles you might encounter even under the weight of increased obligations, both professional, personal and educational.

Financial Preparation

A very important part of going back to school is being financially prepared, which will allow you to maintain your lifestyle even though your responsibilities might increase. Dealing with an increased workload will be a mental strain if you add financial worries to that equation, then its sets you up to collapse under pressure. Beyond sustaining your lifestyle, it can also alleviate money related anxiety, which can not only affect you it can have catastrophic effects on your interpersonal relationships with family and friends.

Beyond your personal planning, it would also be immensely helpful to find out if you are entitled to any financial aid from your employer or the government. There are specific programs for anybody over 25, also known “non-traditional” or returning students intended to help them pay tuition and even purchase books. Employers such as Denny’s have specific programs for single parents. Here is another resource regarding non-traditional/adult/returning student scholarships and grants.

The Support System

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You can visit this very inclusive glossary though that will give you a small insight into what certifications are available for a large list of professions and fields of expertise. Many employers and companies also have professional enrichment or continuing education programs that either completely or partially pay for the programs. Companies such as Apple, Google, Dell and General Mills all offer full tuition reimbursement. Some companies such as FedEx and Gap offer partial tuition assistance, depending on the employees years of service. Here is a list of companies that either pay for employees college education entirely or partially.

Trick of The Trade

If you are considering going back to school and switching careers, then I have a way you can do both simultaneously. Most university or college employees, study for free and even their children or first degree relatives are entitled to half-off tuition. This can also be a suitable and feasible solution for someone that might not have the financial resources for school in the first place. These programs are called tuition remission programs, and of course, there are caveats.

Most universities require you work for the institution for at least a year before enrolling in classes, and you must be working towards an undergraduate degree, although discounted tuition is usually offered for graduate studies or is completely free with the approval of a supervisor. Although tuition remission programs do come with a few stipulations, the fact that even the employee’s dependents can study for free is an immense benefit.

Is It For You?

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Is going back to school the right choice for you? Ultimately only you can judge that, by weighing the pros and cons, your resilience regarding change and increased workload at the cost of personal and family time.

If on the other-hand, you meet all these requirements and will pursue your continuing education with passion, then I wish you best of luck. Hopefully, this article gave you the necessary resources to begin your educational journey.

Is there anything else I should have mentioned regarding making a career shift by going back to school? Have you successfully changed careers by going back to school? Let us know about your experience and how you succeeded in the comment section below.

 

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