We've all been there before: You feel like your career trajectory has hit a wall, and you wonder if it's time to go back to school. Returning to the classroom can open new doors for you, but it's also quite expensive. College Data reported that, in 2017, in-state tuition and fees cost an average of $9,970 per year for state schools and $34,740 per year for private institutions.
"I'm a self-professed nerd, so asking me whether it's a good idea to pursue further education is always going to get an emphatic 'yes'," says Dr. Jim Kanichirayil, Division Manager of Beacon Hill's Technologies Division in Milwaukee. "With that being said, before making a decision like this, I think you need to examine the 'why'. There should be some thought into the broader professional vision a person has and how continuing education will be a means to achieve that vision. In the abstract, every employee should be operating in the spirit of continuous improvement throughout their careers. Continuing their education is just one facet of that pursuit."
Before you make a decision, consider your answers to these questions:
Will you need a degree?
The first question to ask yourself as you prepare to make a career change is whether you will need a college degree. If you already have a bachelor's degree, you may not need another if you have sufficient work experience. If you don't yet have a degree, you'll need to determine whether the cost of getting one is worth the investment.
According to a report from Georgetown University, 65 percent of all jobs will require a college degree by 2020. Specifically, 30 percent will require some college or an associate's degree, and 35 percent will require a bachelor's degree or higher. Science, technology, engineering and math careers are likely to grow the fastest over the next few years and will certainly require postsecondary education.
Do you have relevant skills?
Before you take the dive and go back to school, you have to think about what your expectations are. Oftentimes, returning to get a degree after a few years of work experience is beneficial, in that it allows you to bring real-world experience to your studies. "Most graduate schools and graduate students find that a minimum of five years of work experience is advantageous for both acceptance and engagement," says Amy Van Sicklin, Managing Director of Corporate Recruiting at Beacon Hill. "The real-life, professional experience creates a collaborative learning environment with rich and diverse perspectives that enhance what everyone gets out of the class and program overall." From the opposite perspective, it is important to remember that simply having a degree won't land you that dream job. Career coach Kathy Caprino, writing a guest article for Forbes, explained that returning to college is just one of many options available to career changers. Caprino explained that many of your current skills and experience may translate to another field. It's all about how you frame them.
Try making a list of your current skills, and then look for ways that they could transfer to your dream job. Soft skills like interpersonal communication and professional habits translate to almost any industry.
Does your dream job require licensure?
If you're looking to get into a highly skilled career, such as medicine or law, you'll have to go back to school. Physicians and lawyers, as well as similar positions, not only require specific degrees but also state-specific licensure.
That said, it may also be worth pursuing a tangential career. If you want a career in medicine but cannot afford to spend several years in medical school, you could consider opportunities in health care administration. The same can be said of other industries with strict employment requirements.
Are there other options?
Someone might choose to go back to college for many reasons. Some common reasons include personal development, career aspirations or networking opportunities. However, college isn't the only way to achieve these goals. For example, many community programs are designed to help people gain new skills and offer free online courses to learn about niche subjects. Likewise, the internet has made professional networking easier than ever. With a free LinkedIn account, you can reach a whole world of like-minded people.
Before you decide to go back to school, consider speaking with a career counselor or professional recruiter to talk about your options. This professional may present paths that you hadn't thought of before and can give actionable advice on what your next steps should be.
To learn more about advancing your career, talk with the recruiters at Beacon Hill Staffing Group today.
This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.