It’s now commonplace for job seekers to consider going back to school to advance their career. But is this a practical move for everybody? Not always. There are different industry standards for education, and a specific degree or certification may not always move you forward.
While back-to-school commercials may already be playing on TV, avoid getting sucked in and decide for yourself if going back to school is the right move for your career. Karen Southall Watts, business coach, consultant and author, provides the questions you should ask yourself when considering further education, as well as the answers to best to determine your options.
How much do you know about the job potential for this course of study?
How much do you know about local opportunities, the potential need to relocate to find work and the realistic time from entry-level wages to getting a promotion? Many students enroll in “hot” fields such as nursing, for example, only to find that they are unsuited to the physical demands of the job or that there are few local employers. Older students often have family obligations that mean they cannot pick up and follow the jobs after graduation.
What is your (true) comfort level with technology?
Many schools are pushing courses online, using online registration and grading systems, and making libraries and other resources accessible via the school website. Some older students are not comfortable with intense computer use, although the stereotype of older students being computer-phobic and younger ones being digital natives is a bit deceptive. In students of any age, the ability to use things such as Facebook, email or a smartphone does not equal the ability to do online research, use computers to generate documents and presentations, or interact with online classroom software packages.
Are you overloading your schedule?
Adult students tend to be very goal-oriented and want to finish education and training as quickly as possible in order to get into the job market. This desire to hurry up may manifest in an overloaded and unrealistic schedule. Students who are depending upon financial aid sometimes feel pressured into taking the maximum amount of hours possible. Combine these issues with family and job commitments, and a student can start an academic term in a “no win” situation — there simply are not enough hours in the day to do what he or she wants.
Is there another option besides a full degree?
If a student is already mid-career, he or she may need only a few courses or workshops to get to the next level. Rather than shifting from one field into something completely unrelated, it may be wiser to find ways to leverage past experience and pivot to something that doesn’t require starting from zero. It is essential for potential students to talk to someone in their chosen field and not just admissions advisers when making the decision to return to school and selecting a course of study.
Education can be a great option for those who have researched their career options and know which direction they’d like to take. However, if schooling isn’t a smart career move for you, there are other ways to gain momentum in your career and opportunities that may lead to bigger roles down the road.