As we continue to readjust our lives to a global pandemic, you may be wondering if now is the time to use that time to go back to school to pursue a higher degree, or if you can build new skills in other ways. As with any major financial decision, there are many factors to consider.
Tips for Going Back to School
MAKE A PLAN
Think about your life in the next five or ten years. What work do you see yourself doing? What are your career and financial goals?
Once you are clear on your goals, you’ll be better able to assess the value in going back to school or if there are alternative ways to build the skills that you need to achieve your goals.
CONNECT WITH OTHERS
Reach out to people who work in the field you’re considering and ask them how they got there.
Did they go to school to get into this line of work or did they focus on building up their skills and experience?
Ask about industry trends and employer preferences around skills training versus formal education. Get a sense of whether they seem happy with the work they are doing and put yourself in their shoes. In the future, is this where you see yourself? Would you be happy in this line of work?
TRADITIONAL SCHOOLING VS SKILLS BUILDING
Certain fields require a degree or formal training. For example, if you want to become an accountant, a teacher, a lawyer, or a healthcare professional, you’re going to need to go back to school.
Certain jobs require specific credentials to enter into the field. If you’re interested in a career in an area like digital marketing, writing or human resources, there are programs you can take but you can also consider gaining these skills in other ways like online learning.
CONSIDER THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)
When thinking about any major financial decision, it’s important to consider the potential ROI. College degrees come with a hefty price tag and you could find yourself missing out on income while you study. So how do you gauge whether it will be worth the investment of time and money?
Stay focused on your goals:
- If you are mid-career and want to increase your expertise in an area where you already have experience, you may benefit from investing in formal training or an advanced degree.2 For example, if you have been working as a mid-level employee and want to progress into management roles, management training or a degree could give you the skills needed to succeed in a higher paying position.
- If your goal is to pivot into a new career where you have no experience, formal training could help you get there. If you need specific technical skills to achieve your goals, there are many free and low cost options like LinkedIn Learning3 and Coursera.4 Entry level employees who want to move up to a more specialized role can add technical skills to help secure a higher paying position. If your goal is to secure full time employment and you don’t have the funds or time to invest in going back to school, online learning can help you gain knowledge and strengthen your resume while you job hunt.
CONSIDER HOW TO FUND YOUR EDUCATION
If you have decided that your path forward includes formal schooling and a degree, assess how you can get the most for your money and how to fund it. Key considerations include whether to attend a public or private school which can significantly impact the cost of your education; how long it will reasonably take you to get your degree if you will continue to work while pursuing it; and how many credits you can afford per semester. Once you’ve calculated your cost, think about how you can fund it:
- If your new degree is related to your field of work, check to see if your employer has a tuition assistance program
- You might also want to start a 529 plan for yourself to create a college savings plan that offers tax and financial benefits.1
- Cash value form a whole life insurance can also be a source of funding
We are living through unprecedented times and making decisions around the future can be challenging. Take the time to plan, do your research and really think through the pros and cons of going back to school. Whether you decide to go back to school or upgrade your skills through continuing education, there are more options now than there has ever been before.
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2020-110615 Exp. 10/2022