You’re in a career you love but want to move up the ladder. You’re stuck in what feels like a dead-end job and want to jump ship, but you don’t know where you’ll land. You love learning and are longing for the chance to challenge yourself and learn something new. You recognize the world is changing quickly, and you want to have the latest skills to keep up.
Does one or more of these statements apply to you? If so, consider going back to school as an adult. Earning a degree as a working adult can be the catalyst for an exhilarating journey that has the potential to advance your skills and position, boost your salary, or support a whole new career path. And if you choose to take this journey, you’ll be in good company: in 2015, 8.1 million students 25 years old and over were enrolled in college and university.
From test-taking tips to how to talk to your supervisor about going back to school, this guide will help you take the first step toward campus, courses, and a whole new chapter in your life.
Discover the following sections of this guide:
- Why Online College Is A Good Option for Working Adults
- Balancing Working Full Time and Going to School
- Types of Degree Programs Built for Working Adults
Why Online College Is A Good Option for Working Adults
Don’t live near a campus or have time to commute? That’s no longer a barrier for adults going back to college. There are an increasing number of online degree and certificate programs offered by well-established and reputable, non-profit universities that are available for working adults and other learners who are seeking a more convenient way to complete their schooling. Here are a few reasons why online college is a great option for adults working full time and going to school.
When you’re taking online classes, you typically don’t have to worry about making it to class on time. Online classes offered in asynchronous formats provide flexibility for you to finish coursework on your own schedule within provided time frames each week. Regardless of whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, or only have time to complete coursework on weekends, online classes are usually always accessible.
While there will be deadlines to meet and scheduled exams, online classes offer the convenience for you to schedule in your schooling when it works for you. Furthermore, you can choose how many courses you want to take at a time, and many online students pursue their degree part-time in order to continue working.
Learning from Home
Learning from home may help save you both time and money. You likely already commute to work; why add more travel time, gas money, or transit fares into your day? Online courses provide virtual classrooms that allow you to interact with your instructors and classmates—from the comfort of your home or office.
Potential for Increased Salary and Job Status
Extra education can lead to better job and financial prospects, as many employers are likely to recognize and appreciate your commitment to furthering your education and learning new skills. You may also be fortunate enough to work for a company that offers to cover some or all of your tuition if your coursework is related to your current role. If you’re looking to move into management, for example, higher education may grant you the qualifications needed to one day make that leap.
Greater Financial Freedom
It may not be financially feasible for you to quit your job and go to school full time. An online degree program gives you the flexibility to pursue a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctorate while maintaining your regular work schedule.
Not having to register for a full course load at once means you can pursue your education in a time frame that allows you to effectively balance not only your time but also your checkbook. There are also many scholarships available for adults going back to college.
To search for college scholarships check out the following websites:
Exciting Networking Opportunity
As an adult going back to college, you’re not alone. A 2016 survey found that online undergrad and graduate students are 29 and 33 years old on average, respectively. Going back to school can help you to form or expand professional networks and meet new people in new industries.
Ability to Explore a Career Transition
Are you considering making the leap into a new career or industry? Taking classes online allows you to gain the skills and education you’ll need to transition into a new field while maintaining your current job.
Improving your Technical Skills
If it’s been a while since you were last in school, you’ll likely notice technology has changed quite a bit! When enrolled in an online degree program, you may be required to use different learning management systems, as well as other computer and online programs that may be unfamiliar to you. Improved computer literacy can benefit you in the digitally-connected world in which we live.
Balancing Working Full Time and Going to School
Working full time and going to school isn’t without its own set of challenges. Time management will become a crucial element to your success at work, home, and school, and you will also have to learn to balance deadlines, multiple assignments, and exams.
Here are some tips that can help you effectively balance the demands of work, home, and school.
Going back to school as a working adult is a rewarding choice, but it’s one that requires both time and commitment. That’s one of the reasons why online schooling is such a great option if you’re working full time. These are some things that can help you become a time management pro as you navigate this new chapter in your life.
- Get a day planner or scheduling app. Catalog all your to-do’s for school, work, and the rest of your life in one place so you always have an idea of what’s on your plate and how much time you’ll need to dedicate to each task.
- Prioritize. One exam, two papers, an approaching deadline at work… Where do you begin? Once you’ve listed everything that’s coming up in the next week or month, you’ll be better prepared to determine which tasks need your immediate attention and which ones can wait.
- Compromise. You may encounter situations where it simply isn’t possible to get everything done at once. In these situations, consider what is most important to you. Start there, and work on your tasks in order of priority.
- Be realistic with the demands on your time. You may not be able to grab after-work drinks or dinner with colleagues as often as you used to. Consider time-blocking in your schedule: Set out specific blocks of time during each day or week to devote to certain tasks, whether that’s housework, exam prep, or simply relaxing and spending time with friends and family.
Time Management & Planning Apps to Consider
- Track your schedule, homework and grades
- Free cloud sync
- Available on macOS, Windows, Android, and iOS
- Create lists and subtasks in a creative and colorful way
- Receive reminders by email, text, IM, Twitter, and mobile apps
- Available on Mac, Windows, Linux, iPhone, iPad, Android phones & tablets, BlackBerry 10, and Fire
- Productivity app based on prioritizing tasks
- Integrates with Google Calendar and Outlook
- Available on tablets and smartphones
There are a number of things you can do to help ensure that going back to school as an adult doesn’t add additional stress to your life.
- Form study groups. There’s a good chance that other people in your program are in a situation that’s similar to yours: going to work full time and balancing those demands with school. By connecting with those people—even virtually—you can ask questions about coursework, get support when needed, and develop a sense of community.
- Approach test taking with ease. Exams and other tests can certainly heighten your stress levels, but it’s also possible to reduce those anxieties. When you’re taking a test, take your time. Read the instructions—and the questions—carefully, answer the questions you know first, and then return to focus on the more difficult ones.
- Don’t procrastinate. Have a few pending assignments, including one that you really don’t want to complete? Do that one first, and feel the stress lift off your shoulders.
Apps for Studying and Note-Taking to Consider:
- Create, edit, share, and collaborate on outlines, structured lists, tasks, or projects
- Supports family sharing, up to 6 family members
- Available on iOS only
- Type or take handwritten notes and convert them to typed text later
- Highlight and add color or shapes
- Available on Windows, Apple, Android, and Web devices
- Create and share study materials, track progress, set reminders, and create custom quizzes
- Crowdsourced library of over 400 million flashcards, notes and study guides created by students
- Available on Google Play and the App Store
Maintaining Healthy Habits
When you’re working and going to school, it’s easy to let some basic things fall by the wayside. However, this busy schedule means that maintaining healthy eating habits, exercising regularly, and sleeping enough become particularly important. Proper sleep and nutrition can increase your test-taking success, and exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, relax your mind, and refresh your focus.
Keeping Open Lines of Communication
Going back to school as an adult will be a change not only for you but also for your family and colleagues. That’s why it’s important to have open communication with everyone in your life about what you’re doing. Talk with your supervisor and explain to that individual that you’ve enrolled in some classes or a degree program, and be sure to reassure him or her that your new adventure won’t detract from the quality of your work. That openness may lead to extra support or flexibility from your supervisor, and your company may have financial support to offer as well.
At home, the way you spend your time may shift. Rather than relaxing after dinner with your spouse, you may have assignments to complete. Some weekend chores may need to be postponed while you’re finishing an assignment. Additionally, your friends may wonder why you’re suddenly a lot less available for getting together.
Be proud of your commitment to your classes, and be sure to let those who are important to you know about this exciting development.
Types of Degree Programs Built for Working Adults Going Back to School
Most working adults don’t have the time to attend a university or college full time or enroll in a traditional degree program. Fortunately for adults like you interested in getting back to the books, there are some more flexible options out there.
Online Degree Programs
It’s possible to earn your degree without setting foot on a university or college campus. Many schools offer degree programs at the bachelor, master and doctorate level that are 100 percent online. These programs are ideal for working adults who don’t have the time to get to a campus and prefer to pursue their studies from home.
Accelerated Degree Programs
Many schools offer an accelerated degree program that allows students to complete their degrees in a much shorter time frame than usual. Classes run year-round, with no breaks between semesters. These types of programs—where you can earn a degree in as little as 12 to 18 months—are worth considering if you are looking to get in, get your degree, and get out!
Weekend / Evening Classes
Weekend and evening classes offer working adults the chance to complete their courses without having to disrupt their regular work schedules. By enrolling in one or two courses per semester, adult learners can effectively balance the demands of a full-time job with their studies. These types of classes are right for you if you are seeking a way to attend classes in person while still going to work.
A blended degree program gives you the best of both worlds, as you get the face-to-face interaction of on-campus schooling and the flexibility afforded by online coursework. A blended degree program is ideal if you value in-person interactions with your peers and instructors, as well as the ability to work from home or your office online. Many blended programs feature an on-campus portion of the semester, which is then followed by online course completion.
Flexible Degree Programs
Flexible degree programs offer more than one way for students to earn their degrees. Traditional degree programs often have students complete their studies in a set time frame, such as two to four years. But with a flexible program, the time frame is little more open. Some programs, for instance, offer students the chance to complete a degree program in five years instead of four. A flexible time frame like this allows a student to spread out their course-load, making it a little easier to balance their work and personal responsibilities.
Take Control of Your Future by Going Back to School as a Working Adult
You want to move up that corporate ladder. Or you want to move on to doing something completely different in your career. So why not climb higher with your education?
To learn more about how you can start the process of going back to school for a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree, do your research and contact an enrollment advisor today. With the support of friends and family, financial assistance from various organizations, and the guidance of a school counselor and an enrollment advisor, you’ll be well prepared to take control of your future.
Here are some resources to help you take the next step toward going back to school:
Going Back to School for Psychology guide
Back to School for Computer Science
Going Back to School for Teaching