Taking the plunge to go back to college is never an easy decision. It’s common to be plagued with feelings of self-doubt or to worry about juggling the rigors of daily life with the demands of being a student, especially if you’re already working full time.
Granted, a degree can’t guarantee a new job or career advancement, but it can help you gain the skills and knowledge you need to pursue new opportunities – and give you a leg up on the competition.
But is when is the right time to get started?
Start by asking yourself why you want to go back to college. Is it to help advance your current career or pursue a promotion? Do you want to explore a new career entirely? Or do you just need to “check the box”? Knowing what you want and why makes the decision-making process clearer.
Next, ask yourself if a degree is the best way to achieve your goals. Is your niche in the business world more dependent on real-world experience? Often, today’s employers are looking for a combination of education and experience, the latter of which might come by way of a paying job, an internship or volunteer position.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree and are considering a master’s degree, research the requirements for your field. Do most of the job postings say an advanced degree is preferred, or even required? There are some cases in which an advanced degree increases your marketability, even if it isn't a necessity.
Maybe you’ve considered opening your own business. That’s a major venture, one with a lot of potential pitfalls. By-the-books knowledge can certainly pave the way to success and help you spot and avoid potential failure, as well as filling in the blanks between what you already know and what you need to learn to be successful. Perhaps your background is in human resources but you need to learn about finance. Maybe you’ve got the numbers down but need to build up your background in marketing.
If your answers to the questions above point to going back to college as your best path to getting where you want to be, there’s one last point to consider – how will going back to school fit into your life?
The good news is that if your schedule is already pressed for time, you can consider an online degree program with the flexibility to fit within the demands of your life and the 24/7 access you need to make it work.
Jennifer Olvera is a Chicago-based freelance writer.
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