The Time Is Now: Going Back to School at 50

Articles

You’ve put off the decision to go back to school for a while now. Work projects, family responsibilities, and maybe financial constraints have kept you from pursuing or continuing a higher education. But now that the table is potentially more cleared, you’ve realized that it’s finally time to head back to school.

However, going back to school at 50 might seem like an unnatural thing to do. Right now, you’re halfway through your career and have your sights set on comfortable retirement. You really don’t feel like a college student, and you think that you’ll probably be the oldest person in the classroom anyway. Yet your curious mind loves to learn and a college education seems like the perfect place to become inspired by new ideas, learn new technologies, and explore new career opportunities.

So maybe it’s time to consider going back to school. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. At 50, the time really is now.

mature student in library

Five Reasons You’re Thinking about Going Back to School at 50

You know that a higher education is valuable, but can you pinpoint exactly what your reasons are for going back to school? Below are five reasons a college education is a wise and worthwhile investment in yourself and your career.

1. You want to learn something new.

Even though you have decades of work experience behind you, you’re still interested in trying something new and challenging. So you’re thinking about going back to school at 50.

According to research, the more educated an individual, the more likely they are to maintain their memory and thinking skills. Those who hold more intellectually demanding jobs are at a lower risk of memory loss or dementia. The health benefits come from a lifelong dedication to learning and participating in mentally challenging activities.

Pursuing a higher education will also help you stay socially connected. Learning alongside peers of all ages, you’ll be forming relationships and benefiting from their support in stressful times. Group assignments and projects will be an opportunity to form a community of like-minded individuals encouraging each other to pursue a higher education.

2. You want to keep up with the latest technology.

Over the course of your career, you’ve seen technology become more and more central to the workplace. Computers, software, mobile technology, and apps have all secured their importance in our lives—at work, at home, and at school. Online learning has lowered the barriers to a higher education and opened the door to distance learning.

According to Babson Survey Research Group, in 2016, 31.6 percent of higher education students took at least one distance education course, with the majority attending a public higher education institution. Online learning challenges students to use technology for learning, testing, and communicating with peers. These skills are very applicable in the job market today, where co-workers, clients, and managers often work remotely and face-to-face communication is infrequent.

3. You want to build on current expertise.

As the workplace continues to change and evolve, your knowledge and expertise must be able to keep up. A college education will build on your current capabilities and introduce you to new processes and more advanced concepts that will help you excel in the workplace. In the classroom, students will have the opportunity to participate in research and gain access to unique facilities. Learning from coursework, assignments, and hands-on experiences will give students a well-rounded education with skills transferable to the workplace.

4. You’re looking to go in a new life direction.

The familiar has become uninteresting and a new career offers a new and exciting road of change. Whether you’re looking to change industries or move into a different position, a higher education is a step in the right direction. Going back to school at 50, you’ll be studying alongside peers with similar career goals and a desire to learn, and you will be inspired by their—and your own—tenacity in pursuing a higher education. College classes, assignments, and projects will show you just how persistent and determined you are. You’ll be inspiring family, friends, and coworkers to not let age be a deterrent to learning.

After graduation, you might consider starting a new business to challenge yourself even more. A strong alumni network, insight from professors, and internship experience will equip you with the skills and knowledge you’ll need to make your own path. Because if you have the determination to pursue a college degree at 50, then most likely you have the drive to start your own business.

5. You’re eyeing a promotion opportunity.

A high school diploma or a bachelor’s degree has been enough up until now. But you’ve already mastered all the skills required for the position you currently hold and now you want to qualify for a promotion. With additional higher education, you’ll acquire a new set of skills, gain advanced knowledge, and even become irreplaceable to your employer.

You know that college graduates earn significantly more than high school graduates over the course of their lives. According to the Economic Policy Institute, college graduates earned, on average, 56 percent more than high school grads in 2015. In contrast, the difference was 51 percent in 1999. Clearly, the benefits of a college degree include a higher salary—and that is not about to change.

Factors to Take into Consideration When Going Back to School at 50

Before going back to school at 50, consider the factors that will impact your decision and the possible effects of your decision on family members, friends, and colleagues.

Goals

A degree should be a stepping stone to something greater—to a brighter and promising future of possibilities. But first you need to ask yourself questions to help you set goals and create a plan to reach them.

  • What do you expect to gain from a higher education?
  • Are you pursuing a higher education to qualify for a short-term job (less than a decade) or something more long-term?
  • How much do you want to earn after graduation?
  • Are you willing to complete any additional training required for your chosen profession?
  • Do you want to start your own business?
  • Do you expect to receive assistance and support from an alumni network post-graduation?

A few things to think about when setting your goals:

  • What are your values? Name at least three.
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses.
  • What qualities do you admire in those around you?
  • Which qualities do you like about yourself and which would you like to improve?
  • Where would you like to be five and ten years from now?
  • What would you like to be remembered for?

Current Responsibilities

By now, your children may be adults or they are no longer as dependent upon you as they used to be. And you may have more time to focus on studying and pursuing delayed dreams. Depending on how much time you have available, you’ll have to decide if you’ll go to school full-time or balance work and school responsibilities.

Whether you choose to go to school full-time or enroll in night or weekend classes, take advantage of these tips to manage your schedule, prioritize, and remain productive.

  1. Plan a week in advance: This tip applies to not only studying, but meal prepping and running errands. A calendar or scheduling app could really help simplify planning and staying on top of your responsibilities.
  2. Maximize free time: For every minute you spend waiting, you could be reading or studying. Keep your coursework nearby and take advantage of every free moment—they can really start to add up.
  3. Limit time spent on social media: It’s no secret that social media have detrimental effects on mental health, impede our ability to manage time, and reduce face-to-face communication. If you’re going back to school at 50, evaluate the quality of time you are spending on social media and make an effort to limit aimless scrolling.
  4. Stay connected socially: This advice may appear to contradict the previous tip, but in reality, face-to-face communication has many benefits, including reducing the risk of depression. Choose to spend quality time with family and friends in person.

Financial Situation

If you’re going back to school at 50, you’ll be looking over your financial health—your savings and levels of debt— and thinking about how much you can afford to invest in a college tuition.

Check out the following financial resources:

  • Budgeting Calculator: With the help of a budgeting calculator, you’ll be equipped to make a wise and informed decision. Visit finaid.org to use the following calculators:
    • College Cost Projector
    • Savings Plan Designer (Flat Contribution)
    • Expected Family Contribution and Financial Aid Calculator
    • Loan Calculator
  • Scholarships: Nonprofit organizations, government departments, and businesses offer a variety of scholarships and grants for returning and adult college students.
  • Loans: You may qualify for both federal and private loans. Visit studentaid.ed.gov to learn more about the types of loans available to you as a college student.

Personal Interests and Hobbies

You know what your interests are, but you’re not exactly sure what career will be best suited to your strengths and capabilities. A career quiz or an aptitude test could help guide you in deciding on a career and degree program.

  • Princeton Review Career Quiz consists of a total of 24 questions and measures your interests in different careers.
  • Sokanu Career Test assesses your interests, personality, skills, ideal work environment, and values to match with a few potential careers.
  • MBTI Instrument will help you learn about your personality and preferences.

Degrees and Career Paths for Those Going Back to School at 50

At 50 years of age, you’re looking for a stable, well-paying career that will build on your past work experience. We’ve come up with a few career options for you to consider before you decide on a degree program.

Marketing Manager

  • What they do:
    • Plan advertising and promotional campaigns to generate interest in products or services and increase company sales
    • Negotiate advertising contracts
      Initiate market research studies to identify market opportunities and understand the target customer
    • Meet with agency clients to provide marketing insight and advice
  • Estimated income: $127,560
  • Estimated job growth (2016-2026): 10% (faster than average)
  • Typical education requirements: Bachelor’s degree in business or marketing

Management Analyst

  • What they do:
    • Identify ways to improve an organization’s efficiency
    • Work for a company or as a consultant
    • Analyze financial data and employment reports
    • Offer recommendations through presentations or written reports
    • Communicate with managers to follow through on changes made
  • Estimated income: $81,330
  • Estimated job growth (2016-2026): 14% (faster than average)
  • Typical education requirements: Bachelor’s degree in business or management

Registered Nurse

  • What they do:
    • Provide and coordinate patient care by administering medicine and treatment
    • Assess patients’ conditions and record symptoms, conditions, and medical histories
    • Operate and oversee the function of medical equipment
    • Assist in performing diagnostic tests and analyzing the results
    • Educate patients about responsibilities at home after treatment
    • Teach patients how to manage and prevent illnesses and injuries
    • Communicate and collaborate with doctors and other health care professionals
  • Estimated income: $68,450
  • Estimated job growth (2016-2026): 15% (much faster than average)
  • Typical education requirements: Bachelor’s degree in nursing and a license

Medical and Health Service Manager

  • What they do:
    • Oversee the planning, direction, and coordination of medical and health services
    • Adapt to changes in regulations, health care laws, and technology
    • Manage the finances of the health care organization or department
    • Prepare and monitor budgets and spending
    • Represent the organization to governing boards and at investor meetings
    • Supervise, train, and recruit employees
    • Communicate with other department managers and medical staff
  • Estimated income: $96,540
  • Estimated job growth (2016-2026): 20% (much faster than average)
  • Typical education requirements: Bachelor’s or master’s degree

Chief Executive

  • What they do:
    • Set organization goals
    • Create strategies and policies to meet organization goals
    • Negotiate contracts and agreements
    • Appoint department managers and leaders
    • Analyze financial statements and oversee budgeting activities
    • Identify business opportunities
    • Consult with other executives, board members, and staff regarding general operations
  • Estimated income: $181,210
  • Estimated job growth (2016-2026): 8% (as fast as average)
  • Typical education requirements: Bachelor’s or master’s degree

Forensic Psychologist

  • What they do:
    • Study cognitive, emotional, and social behavior and processes
    • Observe, record, and interpret how individuals relate to others around them and their environments
    • Work directly with courts, correctional facilities, law enforcement agencies, and the government
    • Testify as expert witnesses in court proceedings
    • Diagnose mental health disorders and conduct routine evaluations of offenders or victims
  • Estimated income: $75,230
  • Estimated job growth (2016-2026): 14% (faster than average)
  • Typical education requirements: A doctoral or master’s degree in psychology

Going Back to School at 50: Take That First Step

Now that you have a better understanding of what you need to do, it’s time to act. Take it one step at a time. Before you know it—you’ll be stepping into the classroom. To learn more about how you can start the process of going back to school for a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree, seek out your options and contact an enrollment advisor today.

Here are some other resources to consider when taking the next step towards going back to school:
Back to College Checklist
Going Back to School for Moms
Going Back to School Guide
Maryville Online

Sources:

Health.Harvard

Online Learning Survey

Business Report

BLS

Maryville Online

BLS Advertising Promotions

BLS Business and Financial Management Analyst

BLS Medical and Health Services

BLS Top Executives

STEPP Program

Psychology Today

BLS Registered Nurses