We all face the challenges of keeping our certifications current and our skills marketable in an ever-changing job market. To do this, many people make the choice to return to school for additional training. Going back to school presents unique challenges to adult learners, especially when they have to juggle work and family in addition to their classes. However, it also carries special rewards for career development, personal growth, and individual achievement. Plus, you might just learn something too!
According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Between 2001 and 2011, enrollment [in degree-granting schools] increased 32 percent…” compared to just 11% between 1991 and 2001. The number of enrolled students over age 25 is outpacing younger college students as many working adults are returning to school to finish degrees, add a new specialty, or attend graduate school. With the influx of non-traditional adult learners, many schools are tailoring degree programs to meet the needs of working adults by offering credit for life experience, scheduling evening classes, and offering online or hybrid courses to make higher education more accessible.
With the availability of flexible college classes, parents, professionals, and others who might not have been able to attend traditional programs are finding it easier to continue their education. As a result, more and more working adults are returning to school.
Here are six reasons you might want to go back to school:
1. Finish your degree. The middle-aged man sitting next to me in Starbucks the other day explained that he had once been just three classes away from completing his bachelor’s degree. Then life happened and he didn’t finish. Now, 20 years later, he is finding it harder to gain employment without a degree. He is making the decision to return to school to finish what he started. His story is like so many others. Students leave their degrees unfinished for many reasons like kids, illnesses, relocations, deployments, finances, and more. With a range of programs available today, it is time to go back to school to finish your degree.
2. Cross-train in a new specialty. When the economy tanked and the unemployment rate spiked, many employees were left wondering whether their jobs would be cut. For the unfortunate ones who found themselves without jobs, attracting the attention of a new employer sometimes meant cross-training in order to showcase a broader range of skills. Adding new skills is always a good idea to maintain a competitive edge. For others who want to work in a new field, cross-training opens new doors for transitioning to a different job. Whether you add new certifications in a technical field or complement your current skill set with a new degree, cross-training makes you more marketable and gives you a broader base when applying for jobs.
3. Position yourself for a promotion. Employers often look for specific credentials when they consider promoting employees. Having a bachelor’s degree can put you in line for that promotion into management you’ve been hoping for. Plus, it gives you a justification to ask for the raise you want. Already have a bachelor’s degree and looking to move to the executive level? Then graduate school is the next step for you. Employers expect your education level to match the level of responsibility within the company. While a degree alone doesn’t guarantee a promotion, it can certainly hold you back if you don’t have one. Head back to school now so you’re prepared when an opportunity for promotion comes your way.
4. Build your resume. One thing each of us should always be doing is building our resumes. Adding to our education and experience is a key part of that process. Enrolling in standalone classes, certification courses, or degree programs adds to your education, develops new skills, and often offers significant opportunities to gain valuable experience through internships and other openings. Plus, it is a great way to network and make new connections while strategically building your resume. Take a look at your resume and identify three ways you can enhance your education, experience or skill set by taking a few classes or even completing a degree.
5. Reach a personal goal. For many older students, returning to school is a way to find fulfillment through personal achievement. Students who may not have had the opportunity to attend college when they were younger are heading to school now for the college education they always wanted. Some are going back to get a bachelor’s degree and others are going to graduate school. Either way, these older students are setting an example for the rest of us that it is never too late to make a goal a reality. Many of these older students are getting their degrees in order to start a business or enter a new field they always dreamed of working in. Think about your dreams and look for a program that will equip you with the knowledge and skills to get you there.
6. Participate in lifelong learning. I often say that learning doesn’t only occur in a classroom, and I mean it. But there is something wonderful that happens when a group of people come together in a quest for knowledge. Their combined experiences and perspectives intersect in a way that enhances the learning of the group. Learning for the sake of learning is a rewarding goal in itself. It has a way of ushering in personal growth in addition to professional development and an expanded network. As lifelong learners, we all benefit as we share in the journey of learning together.
Although returning to school is not without obstacles, the rewards are plenty. With diverse programs designed with adult learners in mind, it is easier than ever before to find classes that fit your needs. The decision to go back to school should not be taken lightly, but there are at least six good reasons it might be the right decision for you.
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 (NCES 2014-015), Chapter 3. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=98
Share your thoughts on returning to school by commenting below! What would you gain by going back to school? What is standing in your way?