March 16, 2018
When you're ready to advance - or change - your career goals and improve your earning potential, a higher level of education may help you achieve greater success in your chosen field.
Deciding to return to school requires research to select a school and a course of study as well as assessing your financial situation. Though going back to school may be something you've always wanted to do, it's important to have more than your own determination and desire to support your decision.
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2016 Current Population Survey, earnings and employment potential both increase as educational attainment rises. Median weekly earnings for a person with a:
The 2016 BLS survey notes that those with more education also have lower rates of unemployment: The unemployment rate for high school graduates is 5.4% compared with 2.8% for those with a bachelor's degree, and the rates continue to decrease for graduates with more advanced degrees.
It's a good strategy to research your employment potential using websites such as Glassdoor, PayScale, O+NET Online and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so you have a better understanding of salary ranges for jobs with the degree you plan to obtain. Weighed against your costs for education, you'll be better able to decide if your degree of choice is your best option. The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the BLS includes data, resources and estimated salaries for the jobs that are the most appealing to you.
If you're already employed in your field, it can be informative to job shadow someone who's working at the level you aspire to achieve. Have targeted conversations with others in your network to learn from their experiences about what's necessary to move up the ladder.
One of the first steps is to discuss your plans with those who are close to you. If your family and friends have your back, managing the demands of a changed lifestyle will be easier to juggle.
If your significant others feel they are a part of your plans and goals, your path to a degree could be smoother. Getting your degree online makes it easier to fit the demands of work, school and personal life into a manageable schedule. If it's been a while since you've been a student, you could choose to begin your degree program by enrolling in just one course to fine-tune your ability to balance coursework with your existing responsibilities. Or, you may be ready to dive right in, full-time, and devote yourself to finishing your degree as quickly as possible.
Once your "why" is clear, it's time to take a detailed look at your financial situation, both current and future. Here are some steps you can take to assess your eligibility for several types of financial aid:
Financial aid and career counselors at your school of choice are ready to assist you with any questions you have as you work your way through this process.
Writing on Forbes.com, career coach and consultant Kathy Carpino said before going back to school you have to be crystal clear about what you want to do, both at work and in life. What makes you excited and pushes you forward?
"To know if going back to school is the right move for you, you need to become very clear on what you want in your life and work," Caprino wrote. "You also have to understand yourself intimately (what you're passionate about, and what motivates you to succeed, for instance) and evaluate your life and situation with eyes wide open."
Susan Bogle is a marketing and student recruitment specialist in higher education. Follow her on Twitter @Suze1776 or connect on LinkedIn.
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