Professional Education and Career Blog

The Case for Going Back and Getting Your Degree — How to Get Started

finishlineThere are many reasons why an adult might not have gone to college earlier in their life. But there’s no reason that they can’t go back to school later on and get that degree they desire. More and more adults are thinking about taking the plunge, but going back to college can be a daunting and even frightening thought. But with the right information, you can go with confidence.

For many individuals, earning that diploma can make a significant difference in their professional life and personal life. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 33% of the 18 million undergraduate students are over age 25, and 22% are over the age of 30. Many adults are apprehensive about fitting in with the culture at college, but the trend is clear – there are many adults in the same situation. It’s not just teenagers and people in their early 20s, there are students of all ages and experiences.

How to Get Started

Before you can decide on a school and major, you need determine your educational goals. Many want a degree for career advancement, but some want to simply study an area for personal enrichment, or the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. It’s important to ask yourself ‘why’ you want to go back to school.

Personality tests and career counseling are available to help you make these critical decisions. They can help you pinpoint interests, and the best options, especially for people who want to change careers and aren’t certain what direction they want to go. Your local college often has free or very affordable counseling.

Investigate Alternatives

No doubt, going back to school can be expensive, but there are many options for reducing the cost. Some alternatives to investigate:

  • adult1Many people don’t know that you can test out of classes, and earn college credit for knowledge you already know. This is an extremely affordable way to earn credit.
  • A great way to do your general education classes is to start at your local junior college for two years, and then transfer to a four-year college or university. Very often the junior colleges have established paths, allowing for automatic entry and acceptance into the four year program. Talk to your local junior college about these options.
  • Investigate if your company has a Tuition Reimbursement program, where the company pays for you to go back to school. This can be an ideal way to go back to school, especially since the company will be sympathetic to possibly scheduling around the courses. If your company doesn’t currently offer it, they may be open to a suggestion, or you may even want to target moving to another company that offers it.
  • Don’t forget about scholarships and grants, both private and government. Many programs are available to adult learners. Your local college can assist you with reviewing your options.
  • Distance Learning or Online Learning can be a great way for the adult learner to earn a degree while minimizing the time required for going to class. There are many fully-accredited degree programs that take place online, and the degree you earn is exactly the same as the one you would earn the traditional route.

Benefits of a Degree

There is no doubt that having a degree can make a big difference in your employment potential. In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate for high school grads without a degree was 7.5%. That dropped to 5.4% for an Associate (two-year) Degree, 4.0% for a Bachelor Degree and 3.4% for a Masters. Professional or Doctoral Degrees dropped to 2.2%!

Income shows a similar story. High school grads earned a median weekly salary of $651, while Bachelor Degrees earned $1,108, an increase of 70%.


Hard Work Can Pay Off

No doubt the amount of work looks daunting, but the numbers are clear. There can be a big payoff for taking the step of improving your education. In today’s competitive, global economy, not only are competing for jobs at home, but global markets have changed the nature of business in fundamental ways. Education is still one of the best investments we can make in ourselves. Not only can it give you personal satisfaction, it can open doors in numerous ways now and in the future.