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How To Decide Whether Going Back To School Is The Right Move

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Nov. 11 2022, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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Now is a great time to consider pursuing a new career. There are growing opportunities in a variety of industries. Not to mention that the Great Resignation has put a lot of power to negotiate salary and conditions back into the hands of candidates. It’s a prospect well worth exploring.

However, switching career paths often means you need to gain an education in a new field. While your experiences up to now will be valuable to any role, there will likely be essential skill sets you don’t currently possess. As such, going back to school might be necessary. This is an important consideration. You may find there are various factors that determine whether gaining an education is practical at the moment.

Let’s review some of the key elements in establishing whether going back to school for a career change is right for you. What solutions can help you navigate some of the more difficult challenges?

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Consider your career aims.

It says something about our society that careers seem to be intrinsically linked with going to university. From a young age, you’re likely to be told that if you want a good job, you have to get a degree. Yet, this isn’t necessarily the case. Part of knowing whether going back to school is right for you very much depends on your aims.

If you’re looking to enter a profession that requires significant licensing, like law or medicine, university is often unavoidable. There are also careers in which employers place a strong emphasis on gaining a specific type and level of degree. It’s important to do some research into not just what the technical educational requirements of careers are, but also what the majority of employers lean toward.

That said, it’s vital to understand that many highly-valued careers don’t require academic education. Trade roles like general contractors, mechanics, and carpenters can be lucrative and personally enriching. Not to mention that these positions tend to have higher longevity as trade careers are unlikely to be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) or automation any time soon. In some cases, you may need to attend trade school. However, there are also apprenticeships in which you can learn on the job.

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Weigh your finances.

There’s no getting around the reality that going back to school is an expensive process. At present, the government caps tuition fees at £9,250 per year. However, this only accounts for tuition itself. You may also have additional expenses with regard to books and equipment. Not to mention that the costs of living while you’re studying need to be taken care of.

In an ideal world, financial elements shouldn’t be a barrier to anyone seeking higher education. Unfortunately, it is the case that it must at least be a consideration in your plans. Few people are able to give up their jobs entirely and return to school. Do you have enough money saved back to take care of your living costs while learning full-time? Does the course you’re targeting allow for part-time study so you can still work alongside getting an education?

With regard to paying for your education, student loans can be an option. However, not everybody wants to leave school with a huge amount of debt. Talk to universities about whether you can apply your work experience as credits toward your degree, resulting in a lower overall cost of your course. In some cases, your current employer may subsidize education as part of your benefits package.

Review your schedule.

Pursuing a degree is a significant time commitment. It’s not just the lectures and lessons you need to attend, but also the additional studying and projects you must complete afterwards. This is often something returning students find difficult to manage. You may have work and home duties you need to balance with the potential schooling. The last thing you want is to burn out.

The challenges of scheduling shouldn’t put you off, though. Rather, in deciding whether returning to school is right for you, it’s important to review potential solutions, not just the problems. Talk to your family and employer about your plans. In many cases, you’ll find them to be supportive of your efforts. Relatives and friends may be able to lighten the childcare load. Your boss may be flexible with your working hours.

It’s also worth reviewing what potential solutions the school itself can provide. Many universities offer online versions of their courses, so you don’t have to travel to the campus every day. However, you should also take steps to get the most out of online schooling, making sure your remote learning is positive and productive. This includes maintaining a quiet space at home and committing to uninterrupted study sessions. It can also be helpful to make time for some socialization with online classmates so you can make valuable and supportive connections.

Conclusion

Going back to school can be enriching and help you to set a course for a new career. Knowing whether it’s right for you requires consideration of your aims, your finances, and the time you have available to commit. However, it’s important to recognize that hurdles don’t mean you should give up on your ambitions. There are often solutions available, whether this is pursuing alternative forms of learning or utilizing financial resources. It can take some planning, but paths to new opportunities are available to you.

This article was writing by Indiana Cooper and originally appeared in Your Coffee Break.

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