Working professionals looking to advance their degrees in order to move up in their field have a lot of choices when it comes to continuing their education. However, while the options may be there, sometimes knowing where to start can be a challenge.
Understanding that more people are returning to school to advance their existing careers, colleges across the state are making it easier for working professionals to transition back into school by providing programs designed specifically with them in mind. With advanced degrees and certifications available through online, part-time and full-time evening and weekend programs, finding a program that accommodates your schedule is easy. But how do you choose the right program for you?
Megan Beresford is the associate director of university recruitment at the University of Washington Tacoma and says one of the most important things to consider when selecting a program is to ask yourself what you’re passionate about. Beresford says degrees in business and computer science may sound flashy and offer promising careers, but at the end of the day, the best career path is the one that you’re passionate about — flashy or not.
Bellevue College’s business and professional training institute program manager, Shara Tscheulin, adds that it’s also important to consider whether you want to stay in your current job or shift careers all together. Knowing this can help you in your search by giving you the opportunity to either strike up a dialogue with your current employer about what type of educational background it looks for when hiring, or research what type of educational experience potential employers of interest look for in new hires. If you think a total career switch may be in order, Tscheulin advises prospective students to take a look at what the job market looks like in different professional fields before diving into something brand new.
Once you’ve determined what type of degree you want to pursue, you can begin searching for colleges that offer the program you’re interested in. Not all colleges offer the same programs, so it’s important to select a program first, and find a college that offers it second.
Srey Chea, an admissions adviser at the University of Washington, says if you’re trying to narrow your college search, key items to consider are location, scheduling, class size, tuition and whether the school you’re considering is a well-recognized institution. Chea says online colleges can be appealing to prospective students because of their affordability and flexibility, but can sometimes fail at helping land a dream job.
While some employers aren’t concerned where your education came from, just whether you have the skills necessary to do the job, other employers prefer to hire candidates who hold degrees from well-recognized, accredited state or private colleges and universities they are familiar with.
After asking yourself some deeply reflective questions, doing a lot of research and finding a college and program that works with your schedule, it’s time to consider cost. Tscheulin says it’s a great idea to look into financial aid options, student loans, grants and other tuition-assistance programs that can help ease the financial burden of college. For people with a greater concern about cost, Tscheulin says it’s a great idea to select a college that offers a pay-as-you-go option. This option allows students more flexibility financially if they need to take a quarter off here and there.
Of course, going back to school is a life-changing decision that can’t be made in one day. If you’re considering going back to school to pursue an advanced degree or certificate and want more information, do a little research and reach out to an adviser at a college or two in your area who can provide you with more personalized assistance to help set you on a path for success.