10 May Do Your Homework: Going Back to School Mid-Career
If you’ve been out in the workforce for more than a decade, you may feel that you have become somewhat of an expert – or at least very confident – at what you do. For some, that means better pay, a higher position, and more job security. But some people start to toy with the idea of going back to school mid-career. While ten years into a legal or medical career is still fairly new to the job, for most industries people feel pretty seasoned by the ten-year mark. And that’s fine…unless it isn’t.
Is going back to school mid-career a good idea? Maybe.
What do you want? One of the first questions you need to ask is why you’re returning to school. If you never got your bachelor’s because you needed to enter the workforce right after high school, or raise a family, it might be something you just want as a personal accomplishment.
Or maybe you think adding a master’s degree could make you more competitive in the workforce. Or going back to school mid-career could be your launch pad to change occupations entirely.
Personal passion. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making the decision of going back to school mid-career, simply because you want to. In fact, if it’s an individual goal for you, the only challenge is to actually graduate. If you’re not tying what makes it worthwhile to a new career or more money, then as long as you can afford the time and tuition, you’ll have accomplished your goal.
Collegiate competitor. If you’re going back to school because you think getting a new level of education could help you with your current or a new job, you need to do your research. First, there are two different metrics across jobs to consider.
First is the value of getting a bachelor’s degree versus the value of getting a master’s degree. Second is the value of an additional degree in a particular job. Look at your peers, and the people at the level you want to achieve.
Do they all have M.B.A. degrees and you have a bachelor’s? It’s worth a conversation with your boss if that will make you more competitive for promotions. Some companies will even pay or subsidize the cost of getting an advanced degree.
New deal. If you want to return to school mid-career to change to a really different job, the analysis is about what is normal in that industry. First, do you need a new degree to enter that area? Or is it more about experience? Or can you learn on the job?
Some jobs like public education might be flexible on your bachelor’s degree, but require certification. Others like nursing will require complete retraining. And some trades have opportunities to learn on the job.
If you’re going back to school mid-career, have clear goals.
Going to college is expensive. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go – especially if you are a high school graduate getting your first bachelor’s degree. The lifetime earnings for college still make it worth it, in most industries. But understand that a new piece of paper doesn’t give you new experience – still an important factor in getting a job. So do your homework . . . before you even get to class.