It might be a nagging question, or something that takes you by surprise with its sudden clarity: Should I go back to school? Maybe you finished a program only to find that the career it led to is not as satisfying as you’d hoped. Perhaps you started college but never finished.
Whatever your circumstances, the question of whether or not to go back to college is a big one, but it’s one worth sorting through.
If you already know you want to return to school, then you're probably ready to download our Step-By-Step Guide to Going Back to College. But if you're still on the fence, try breaking the decision down into four smaller questions:
If you’re unsatisfied with your situation, look at it a little more closely to examine why. Is it your current employer or work environment that’s the problem, or is it bigger than that? Sometimes the path we choose at the ripe old age of 18 turns out not to be ideally suited for our 30- or 40-year-old selves.
We talk to a lot of potential students who work in an area they thought was perfect only to discover that something is missing. Typically, they’re simply not making the real difference they would have liked. Nursing and other healthcare fields are popular second careers because they offer a chance to work directly with people while providing an easy-to-see impact.
Maybe it’s as simple as you have a job now but want a true career, something you can grow in and be passionate about rather than just punching the clock. In those moments when you’re feeling unhappy in your current job, take some time to think about exactly why you feel that way. The answers will help you decide if it’s time to go back to school and what sort of position you’d be more satisfied with.
2. Am I willing to do the work?
Think in realistic terms about the time and effort that will go into your education. If you’re truly ready to make a change, this shouldn’t be a deterrent. Your willingness to work hard actually becomes a great way to gauge your commitment.
Will your time spent in school lead to a job you enjoy or a pay difference that will significantly affect your life? If so, you might discover that the process is more than worth the effort. If you’re truly excited about the thought of going back to class and you choose an area you’re deeply interested in, the work won’t seem as heavy.
3. How easy will it be to find a job after I graduate?
When you’re thinking about your potential career path, don’t forget to look into employment rates for your potential field of study. Looking at hard data will help you figure out whether you can improve your situation by going back to school. Healthcare jobs tend to be high-demand, but it still pays to look into numbers for specific careers. You can find job outlook and salary information on each of our program overview pages, and the Bureau of Labor and Statistics has reliable info too.
When you look into various schools, also consider the job placement rates for their programs. Have people within the programs you're contemplating gone on to find a job in their respective fields? If you’re going back to school, you’ll want to do everything you can to make sure it turns out the way you hoped it would.
We say this with one caveat: if you’re truly passionate about something and you know that a given career path would make you happy, then money or presumed difficulty may still not be the deciding factor. Don’t let a slightly lower starting salary or a slightly harder job placement curve deter you from pursuing your passion.
4. Can I find time for school?
It’s rarely the perfect time to return to school, so making the decision is more about acknowledging the challenges and figuring out how you’re going to make it happen. Is your current schedule flexible enough to fit in classes? If the answer is no, what can you do to change that? The answer might be taking just a few classes rather than becoming a full-time student. (There’s nothing wrong with the slow-but-sure road to a new career.)
Also think about who can help you. Does your family support your decision? Are there friends you can lean on for temporary assistance? Also consider what support services a potential college has to offer. The answers to such questions will help you decide whether it’s time to enroll in school.
The question of whether to go back to school is a big one, but if you carefully consider your situation and are realistic about making a game plan, you could see big rewards, not the least of which is a satisfying career.
Ready to get started? We've got you covered. Our Step-By-Step Guide to Going Back to College offers an easy-to-understand game plan that persons returning to school will want to follow. Download your free guide today.