Going Back to School? A Few Things to Keep in Mind

By Toni Vranjes

August 4, 2011

Given the depressing state of the economy, you may be considering going back to school to enhance your career prospects. While extra schooling could give your career a boost, there are a lot of factors to consider before making a final decision. If you do decide to get some extra education, carefully examine all your options.

What are you going to study?

Do you want to continue along the same path, or are you aching to do something completely different? If you do want to switch to a completely new career, think long and hard about the challenges ahead. If you’re sick and tired of what you’re doing, you may want to find a new industry where your current skills would still be useful, instead of changing your career entirely. Of course, it’s ultimately your decision — so if you make a 180-degree change, be prepared for the many sacrifices, but embrace the new opportunities.

Which type of program is best for you?

Whether you’re planning to stay in the same career field or strike out on a new path, you need to figure out the best program for you. As you’re studying all the options, consider the possibility of enrolling in a “certificate program.” This path allows you to gain expertise in a particular career field, and it’s typically quicker and less expensive than a formal graduate degree program.

Which type of school do you want to attend?

Are you considering a public college or university, a not-for-profit private institution (like Yale or Princeton), or a for-profit private school (such as ITT Tech or the University of Phoenix)? You should research not only specific schools, but also the broader issues surrounding the type of school you’re considering. Whether it’s the massive budget cuts at public schools, or the legal fight between the federal government and the for-profit college industry, be aware of the issues and how they may affect you.

How will you pay for your education?

If you already have a job, find out if your employer will help fund your extra schooling. Some employers do help with tuition, so be sure to look into it.

What about the jobless? If you’re unemployed and want to return to school or get more training, visit opportunity.gov. The website, launched by the Obama Administration in 2009, provides information about financial aid and educational opportunities.

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