Are you one of the 36 million adults nationwide1 who have some college credit but no degree? Was your college education interrupted due to finances, family responsibilities, health issues or other reasons? Have you always wanted to go back to school to finish what you started?
If so, now may be the ideal time for you to return to school to complete your degree. Thanks to ongoing technological advances in online learning, it is easier than ever before to for adult learners to enroll in and complete accredited college courses and degrees entirely online. This means you can earn a degree at a time and place that works for you. In addition, many colleges and universities have adopted generous admissions test-waiver and transfer-credit policies to help alleviate barriers. Easing these barriers to admission has improved the transfer student process, enabling you to make the most out of the credits you previously earned.
No matter the reason for pausing your education, when you make the decision to go back to school you are making a sound investment in yourself — and your future.
While returning to school may not always be an easy or a simple choice, here are 8 reasons why it might be a suitable and highly beneficial next step for you.
YOU WANT TO MAKE MORE MONEY
It’s no secret that those who hold higher-level college degrees make more money than those who hold lower-level degrees — or no degree at all. In fact, increased educational achievement is directly linked to lower unemployment rates and higher earnings, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Each level of education you complete may help you develop more skills, give you access to higher-paying occupations, and signal that you’re able to follow through on important tasks that employers value such as planning ahead and meeting deadlines.”2
YOU NEED TO EARN A DEGREE TO ADVANCE YOUR CAREER OR GET A PROMOTION
Sometimes all of the effort, dedication and hard work you put in on the job will only get you so far. While educational requirements for career advancement may differ depending on the field you work in and the organization you work for, expanding your knowledge and building your skill base by pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree can help you move forward in your career.
“Having a bachelor’s degree will get me to the next level. I want to be a reference librarian or archivist. I’ve been working in public libraries for 17 years so I’m doing a lot of the work already, but doors need to open and I have to have that degree in order for that to happen. My goal now is to move on to earn a master of library science.”
—Donna Andreason, Bachelor of Liberal Arts with concentrations in economics and psychology
YOU ARE UNEMPLOYED AND WANT TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR SITUATION
Over the past year, millions of Americans were laid off due to COVID-19. If you’ve been laid off and are struggling to find a new job, it can be challenging to keep yourself motivated during these tough times. One positive step you can take to during the pandemic to help you become more competitive in the job market is pursuing online learning as a means to refresh your current skills and/or gain new ones. Depending on the state you live in, you may even be able to retain your eligibility for unemployment benefits while taking online college courses or pursuing an online certificate or degree.
It’s important to note that state policies vary when it comes to enrolling in online courses or programs while receiving unemployment benefits. Some states, for example, allow only for short-term vocational training. Be sure to contact your state unemployment office for more information.
YOU WANT TO CHANGE CAREERS
You know what they say: It’s never too late. And with all of the online learning options available today, that saying couldn't be more true. And it’s true regardless of your age or what stage you are in your life. If you have something you are passionate about or a career field you have always been interested in, you are no longer limited by geographic location when it comes to finding an online college or online degree program that will put you on the path to achieving your dreams.
Making a major life or career change takes courage, determination and the belief that you can do it, but it is possible. Many people have successfully pivoted and changed their lives by pursuing an online degree in an entirely new field.
“I have faith that earning my degree from UMass Lowell will give me better opportunities. I feel like the experience has been life changing for me. I’m actually a chef, and I plan to change careers right away and find a new job.”
—Kasidit Bualoeng, Master of Science in Information Technology
YOU WANT TO STAY RELEVANT AND KEEP UP WITH NEW TECHNOLOGY AND TRENDS
Continuous learning is unquestionably one of the best ways to ensure that you will be highly competitive in the workforce. During the pandemic, many working professionals have pursued online learning as a way to refresh and hone their skills to help with job security. By staying on top of new and emerging technologies and trends, no matter what field you work in, you will be able to effectively pivot and adapt when needed.
Technological developments and rapid transformation in the workplace mean that technical skills, in particular, are — and will continue to be — in high demand, according to Fast Company.3
“Competencies in areas such as cloud computing and communications, data analytics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are all in demand now and will continue to be vital in the short and long term.”
YOU FEEL STUCK, BORED OR UNCHALLENGED IN YOUR CURRENT JOB
If you chose not to go to college after high school or you started college and then decided it wasn’t the right path for you at that time, you may find yourself working in a job that leaves you feeling unfulfilled or has little to no potential for career advancement or growth. You are not alone.
Feeling bored or unchallenged in your job may very well be a signal that you have much more to offer. Don’t let the fear of failure or uncertainty about your academic abilities stop you from reaching your full potential. Colleges and universities are invested in student success, and there are many resources available to help you along the way.
YOU WANT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TUITION BENEFITS OFFERED BY YOUR EMPLOYER
According to a survey4 done by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, 92% of U.S. organizations offer some sort of educational benefit to employees to encourage them to continue their education. These benefits — which can include programs such as tuition reimbursement or assistance, student loan repayments, and coverage for other education-related expenses — benefit both employees and companies in numerous ways.
Tuition benefit plan requirements and limitations differ from one company to the next, so you’ll need to check with your human resource department to find out more about what educational benefits your company might offer. If your employer covers even part of what it will cost to continue your education, taking advantage of this benefit will be a very wise move on your part.
YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF
If you are a parent, you may have made the choice earlier in your life to put your own aspirations on the back burner so you could focus on raising your family. This is one of the most common reasons people cite for putting their education (or career) on hold.
Family is also very often the inspiration behind why many people choose to go back to school to finish their degree. Doing so can give you a sense of personal achievement while building your confidence, which can be especially helpful if you are preparing to return to the workforce.
“Finishing my college education was important to me. It’s something I had started about 30 years ago and had set aside once we started having kids. I was sort of inspired by both of my boys graduating from college. It made me decide that I was going to finish, too.”
—Teresa McCloskey, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
1. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Some College, No Degree, a 2019 Snapshot for the Nation and 50 States. October 30, 2019.
2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Career Outlook. “Learn More, Earn More: Education Leads to Higher Wages, Lower Unemployment.” May 2020.
3. Fast Company. “COVID-19 Has Made Reskilling Workers More Urgent Than Ever.” February 4, 2021.
4. International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. Education Benefits Survey. 2019.