Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Returning to School

There are many reasons that more working adults are returning to school and if you are thinking about joining them, there are a few things you should take into consideration. Of the considerations the following are very important:
  • Is the college accredited?
  • How are you going to pay?
  • Is there a job market for the degree you want?
The first and most important thing to look at when deciding a school is the accreditation of the school. The condensed version of why this is very important is that when you are going for a job after you complete your degree, many of the companies that will be looking for educated employees are looking for reliable schools. Meaning, the employer is not just interested in the diploma hanging on your wall, but did you learn anything substantive from your time in school or was it just a diploma mill? When your prospective employer considers you for a position it is based on what you can do for that particular company with your existing expertise. Very few companies are going to hire a recent graduate with an expectation of teaching them what they should have learned in school. So an accredited school tells the employer that the curriculum was evaluated and is in line with the expectations of the various disciplines that are offered. The easiest way to determine if the school you are looking at is accredited through a reputable and recognized accreditation body is to view the following links. There are two large organizations in the United States that recognize accrediting agencies, giving them validation:
  • U.S Department of Education  
  • Council for higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) 
The next factor to consider is how you plan on paying for school. There are various ways to finance your education. The most basic and preferable way is to save money and pay as you go. This way, you do not create a sizeable amount of debt that you will have to repay. As a working adult, this is likely one of the best options. There are also scholarships and grants that you may qualify for. In general, a scholarship and grant is money that you will not need to repay. The last option but the one that is most used is the student loan. While tempting I would highly suggest you do not use student loans. They will need to be repaid and because there are no assurances of employment, you could be stuck with a large debt without the income to cover your responsibility. And also keep in mind that a student loan is forever. They cannot be liquidated through a bankruptcy. Once you have the loan, you must repay the loan. Also, some employers may offer reimbursement for college courses in part of whole.
The last thing to really consider is what you plan on studying and if there is a viable job market for it. Your passion might be for 15th century literature, but other than teaching, there is not much of a job market for that type of degree. Theatre arts are another similar degree. One way to see what the job market looks like is to look at the Department of Labor and see the trends for employment professions. There will be few things in life as disappointing as spending several years in school only to find you cannot do anything with it.
Ultimately, going back to school is well worth the effort and should be something that anyone that wants to change careers or rise higher in their own should consider.

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