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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Should You Make the Leap into Higher Education?

When you're looking for a job, you want to do everything in your power to stand out from the crowd and put yourself in a position to get your ideal job. For many people, getting a second degree can be the right decision. You'll be sure to meet dozens of other professionals in your field, which could make for great networking. You'll also expand your knowledge in the field, which will be very helpful come interview time. Before you take the plunge, though, consider the following questions to see if it's the right time for you to go back to school.

Do you have the time?

If you're already working over 40 hours a week and balancing your job with a family, you should decide if more schooling is a challenge that you can realistically handle. However, being busy doesn't mean you don't have any options. Online classes can be taken on your own schedule and at your own pace. Consider cutting some optional activities to invest in your future.

Is it the next logical step for your chosen career?

Talk to someone already working in the field. Find out if an advanced degree is likely to directly affect your chances of finding a job. For some, it may be a critical step; but depending on your job, you'll want to make sure the time and money investments are worth the potential gains in your career. You can also spend some time looking at job descriptions that are close to your dream job. Is a certain degree a common requirement, or is a specific skill set more important? Find out what employers are looking for and give that priority.

Will you qualify for scholarships or reimbursements?

Many non-profits and government organizations offer scholarships specifically for people going back to school. Make sure to do your research; some funding is very specific, for example, single mothers going to nursing school. There may be more opportunities than you think. Alternatively, many jobs will reimburse graduate studies, with certain restrictions, so consider job hunting for a while longer and putting off school until the time is right.

Do you have support?

Starting a degree program will require a lot of time and effort from you. You may need to rearrange certain parts of your life, and you will definitely be busier and more stressed. Ensure that you have a consistent support group and that the decision is made after open and honest discussion with family and close friends, since they will be affected most directly.

Can you find the right school?

If you have a specific program in mind, you may need to look beyond the schools in your immediate area. Fortunately, hundreds of schools offer distance learning. You may consider an online mba program, so you can have the best of both worlds: massive selection and at-home convenience. Many degrees are available online. Look into price, courses offered, professor standards, and the career paths of recent graduates to find a school that fits your needs.

Returning to school is an important decision, and it’s one that you should consider carefully. Whatever path you choose, make sure that it’s the best for both yourself and for your career. Earning a degree will take a lot of time and effort, but the end results could be worth it.

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