Getting more education is a smart career move, but it might be one you're not sure whether to pursue. There are different reasons and different ways to gain further education, and it depends on your needs. There's also the issue of paying for school, especially if you've been laid off.
You may not be sure whether or not going back to school can help you. After all, if you already have a job, what's the benefit? There are issues to consider when thinking about further education.
While money is always an important driver, those in school get even more out of their efforts.
"There are many benefits," says Jennifer Carlson, division director of Robert Half Management Resources, "including helping improve your interpersonal skills, versus just technical skills."
It's important to look at your career's big picture, not just taking a random class here and there.
"You need an overall strategy, and it needs to tie into a career plan that you have," says Matthew Crawford, director of admissions at Normandale Community College. "Education is not the golden ticket as much as an overall plan."
Workers are going back to school for different reasons. Some want to hone their skills; others want to take a slightly different route within their current career; and some want to do a complete career change.
Those adding to their existing careers are enhancing themselves with professional certifications or gaining more knowledge. Consider your career and figure out what you need.
"Look where they've been," advises Carlson. "Find out if it pays to get certifications."
Paying The Bill
School isn't free. But there are resources that can help, including tuition reimbursement.
A Robert Half survey released in August 2008 showed that, of 150 senior executives interviewed, 94 percent said they offer tuition reimbursement and 95 percent said they offered reimbursement for other educational expenses.
If you're laid off, then all the tuition reimbursement in the world won't help. In those cases, there are programs like the Alliss grant. This grant is designed to bring adults back to college to start or finish their degree.
"It's a form of encouragement," observes Crawford.
Crawford noted that colleges now offer payment plans. Rather than pay for tuition in one lump sum, colleges are willing to work with students for payment.
"The biggest challenge is that many students spend more than a year thinking about it," says Crawford. "It's worth the time to check it out. Just starting the process is half the battle."
But if you are considering a return to college, think about how it can help you and your career and then make your move.
Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer from Blaine.