Most of us aspire to grow in the workplace; no one starts a new job with the prospect of remaining in the same position for years, yet very few of us manage to develop our careers. What many professionals fail to understand is that continuing their education is essential if they want to grow in the workplace. A university degree can hardly be expected to support your entire career so it’s important to understand that investing in furthering your education can set you apart.
What Does Lifelong Learning Mean for Professionals?
The importance of lifelong learning on your career is indisputable. It enhances your skills, and also helps people remain current and up-to-date. If you’ve been in the workforce for quite some time, it could easily result in a promotion and a raise, while if you are a recent graduate, then you should consider signing up for a few extra classes as they can help you specialise in your area.
Types of Lifelong Learning
Generally speaking, any type of education goes under the umbrella term of lifelong learning, but when speaking about career development, it has to do with knowledge that’s specifically directed towards your professional goals. Most professionals tend to either pursue a Master’s degree as it can help them gain expertise or sign up for online classes as they can help with skills development.
As employers are requiring a more skilled and knowledgeable workforce, no one can argue that a postgraduate degree won’t help put you ahead of competition. The problem many people face is that a master’s degree can be very demanding, and even more so when you are already working. But, the truth is that with good planning anyone can manage it.
- Increases your earning potential
- Teaches you specialist knowledge
- Enhances your sense of accomplishment
- Increases your networking opportunities
- Helps you develop personally
How to Do It
Apart from the issue of funding (which we will talk about in a bit), most professionals find it impossible to make time in their busy schedules. A postgraduate degree requires commitment and dedication, and someone with a job can’t always make time for it.
But, a master’s degree can help expand your career potential. If you are unhappy in your workplace for example and you are thinking of changing jobs or even changing careers altogether, you’ll find that a master’s degree can help your job opportunities. While, if you are just looking to convince your boss that they should promote you nothing says qualified like having the qualifications to back up your demands.
Whatever the case, a Master’s degree can do a lot for your career which is why it’s important to pursue one. If you have a full-time job, most programmes offer a part-time option so you could combine work and study. A part-time degree means that it will take longer to complete, typically two years instead of one, but you’ll have fewer modules each semester and the time allowed for writing your dissertation will also be longer.
If on the other hand, you work part-time, you can manage your work schedule around the university. If your classes are on mornings, you can work in the afternoon or vice-versa.
Of course, it’s also important to note that apart from making time to attend classes, you should also make time for studying as well. Coursework is extremely demanding, and you should expect that to keep up you’ll need to study for at least a couple of hours on a daily basis. But, if you plan ahead, you’ll be able to manage everything just fine.
Online classes are a great option for professionals who are continuously trying to improve themselves. They are less time consuming, require less commitment and can still help your career just as a postgraduate degree.
What’s more, online classes can teach you practical skills that can directly benefit your career as you can choose what you want to learn. If you’ve identified a few areas that you are simply not up-to-date with, you can select the appropriate class to take.
- Variety of subjects
- Lower total cost
- Learning from the comfort of your own home
- More flexible schedule
- Can help you gain lots of skills and increase your career advancement opportunities
How to Do It
Online classes can be an effective solution if you don’t have the time or the money to go back to university. They don’t require as much commitment as generally classes have a fixed time-frame and usually only take up to a few months.
Choosing the Right Online Class For You
- Step 1: Identify what goal you want to achieve (change careers, learn new skills etc.)
- Step 2: Determine if you need the program to be accredited or not (also think of what kind of credential you are looking for, eg. certificate etc.)
- Step 3: Read up on industry developments and compare them to your CV (what are you lacking?)
- Step 4: Think of costs and time (will you be able to pull it off?)
- Step 5: Read reviews (keep in mind that you don’t want to waste your time with something that won’t help you achieve your career goals)
Funding Your Education
Whether you are interested in pursuing a Master’s degree or taking up an online class, you are probably worried about funding your education. After all, most of us struggle to get by as it is and in spite of what lifelong learning promises to do for your earning potential, it can be difficult to manage things on the financial level.
1. Career Development Loans
Career development loans are bank loans that you can get to fund your career development. Sums awarded are between £300 and £10,000. You must be over 18 years old and either be a British citizen or have lived in the UK for at least three years to be eligible.
These loans are awarded for programmes that don’t take longer than 2 or 3 years to complete (the programmes don’t have to lead to a qualification, but you’ll be required to prove how they help you advance your career).
To find out more, you can either call the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900, while if you are interested in proceeding with your loan, you’ll need to complete the online application form.
2. Getting Your Boss to Fund Your Education
If you’d rather not get involved with banks, you may want to consider asking your boss to fund your education.
These days, many companies sponsor their employees’ continuing education as they see it as a way to invest in the company’s future. If you are lucky enough to work for such a company, you may want to sit down for a chat with the HR department to find out more about how to qualify.
If your boss is less generous, you need to be more persuasive and convince your boss of what you can do for the company with these new skills. However, you should note that if you plan to go down this route, then you may want to take into account the company needs as well.
Bear in mind that even if your boss agrees to sponsor your education, you’ll probably be required to sign a contract that binds you to the company for the next 3-5 years as there’s not a single employer that would risk paying for your education without ensuring that they’ll be able to reap the benefits.
3. Financial Aid/Scholarships
You are more likely to find financial aid and scholarship opportunities if you are interested in pursuing a Master’s degree. Universities generally reward student excellence, while there are also many organisations that offer scholarships and bursaries.
The importance of lifelong learning for career development is clear. It is perhaps your greatest tool in achieving your professional goals, and even though there are learning opportunities at every step, it’s essential that you take an active role in your professional development.
Do you have any questions about lifelong learning? If you do, let me know in the comment section below.