When To/Not to Explore Further Studies as Working Adults

Get a new job or get a new degree? Which decision is better for the modern-day working adult? We feel both options can be positive choices, as long as your decision is well-thought-out.
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The COVID-19 pandemic is severely impacting employment opportunities across different sectors. Many working professionals are considering exploring further studies to better their employment chances in this era of unprecedented job losses.

  • In 2020, there were over 114 million job losses across the world. Young workers account for 8.7% of these job losses.
  • Another global study by Microsoft revealed that 41% of working professionals were considering changing professions in 2020.

Get a new job or get a new degree?

Which decision is better for the modern-day working adult?

We feel both options can be positive choices, as long as your decision is well-thought-out.

Increases in the number of adults enrolling in college programs are common during major economic downturns. For example, after the financial crash of 2008, countless professionals realized the importance of further education in securing employment.

Since then, adult enrolment rates in higher education, certificate, or degree programs have continued to grow year every year.

Pursuing Further Studies as a Working Adult—Why it Makes Sense?

In the post-pandemic world, pursuing higher education or specialized degree programs can benefit working adults.

  • Competition: Now’s the perfect time for employees to update their education, particularly in digital technology. Risks of career stagnation and unemployment are higher for those who aren’t up-to-date with the latest advances in their fields.
  • Earning Potential: On average, a high school graduate earns 66% less than a bachelor’s degree holder. The same rule applies to masters’ degree holders, professionals with specific specializations, certifications, etc. Your earning potential directly correlates to your educational background.
  • Experience: Working adults with experience in specific industries know what degrees or certifications they need to obtain for career advancements. This experience enables them to pick specific, time-efficient courses that conveniently improve their employment potential.
  • Access: Thanks to online education and certification platforms, pursuing higher education has never been easier for active professionals. Professionals of all ages and industries can find and enroll in degree/certificate programs that guarantee to boost their CVs. Plus, several top online educational platforms are industry-accredited. These qualifications are not only accepted in modern-day workplaces—they often make all the difference for job applicants.
  • Career Changes: Earning another qualification is the best way to make complete career changes. Certifications make unemployed professionals more employable. We’re currently living in an era of career changes. Young professionals, in particular, are likelier to switch companies and fields. Having certifications and degrees makes modern-day professionals better suited for such a labor market.

Even when a job doesn’t specifically require a degree, 91% of these jobs go to degree-holders. That’s why the road to financial security and increased earning potential is almost always specialized, higher-level education.

Enrolling in higher education, certificate, or degree programs also gives working professionals to network with like-minded peers. Lastly, enrolment rates of adult learners across the globe are constantly increasing. 

Are You Ready for Further Education?

Many adults make the decision to pursue further education without thinking about which degree or college they want. This can be an expensive mistake. Signing up with online universities is less risky in this sense. Still, “aspiring students” must address the following questions to determine whether they’re ready for or really want further education:

1) Why Do You Want to Explore Further Studies? 

Most working adults want to complete their degrees as per their schedules and at reasonable costs. However, those aren’t goals. Are you sure what you’ll learn by going back to school will help your career? If so, in what ways. Having such clear goals from the start helps adults choose the right degrees and the right colleges.

2) What Career Options Will the Education Guarantee?

What kind of job/career do you desire? Which jobs have the most promising outlooks in the current labor market? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you’re probably not ready to enter the world of higher education.

3) What Quality of Education do You Want?

Although today there are more educational options for working adults, there are also many fake colleges and universities out there. These “institutions” are only focused on making profits off of their students. Avoid such educational opportunities. Such programs typically award degrees that most employers don’t value during recruitment. 

4) Can You Afford Higher Studies?

Higher education can be expensive, even for working adults with fixed sources of income. That’s why before quitting your job for education, consider your costs. Look for flexible college programs that are designed for adults leaving the workforce. 

PS: Watch out for technology-based learning opportunities. Working adults with irregular can save time with online learning. Many online colleges even accept credits from previous institutes. That means students don’t have to repeat courses.

5) Can You Navigate the Admissions Process?

Walking through the steps of applying to colleges may seem alien to professionals. Steps like understanding deadlines for submitting applications or even filling out applications are confusing for adults re-entering colleges.

Many adults have unique financial opportunities that they must optimize. This may seem like the easiest challenge of all. But, many young professionals don’t do their due research before entering education programs.

For instance, military veterans receive many educational benefits that cover their school-related costs. Similarly, many companies offer free upskilling courses for interested participants.

In some tech education programs, professionals are paid for learning computer programming or other company-specific skills. Learn about these techniques and offers before starting your application process. Look for the most cost and time-efficient education opportunities.

Challenges Working Adults Should Expect 

Unlike “traditional” students, adult students often face unique challenges such as –

  • Financial Support: Adult students may have to secure separate sources of financing to pay for their advanced studies.
  • Time Hassles: Balancing personal or work-related commitments is much harder when you’re enrolled in education programs.
  • Self-Belief: It’s common for adult students to lack self-belief after re-entering education programs they’ve avoided for several years. They may also fear being left behind by younger students. Adults with poor social skills are likelier to fear getting ostracized and isolated during the application process. These fears may keep them away from exploring further studies.
  • Access: With online classes, access to educational institutes is much easier now. Still, some adults may have to change locations or travel long distances to access their desired courses.
  • Support: Traditional students receive plenty of support from their friends, social groups, etc. When you’re one of the few adult students in a program, it’s harder to find such support. That’s why adult students must look for support systems just as soon as they start their educational journeys. Proper support will help them overcome these apprehensions about education.

These are real challenges and insecurities that adults must consider before re-entering the world of education. If you’re not ready to address these challenges, you’re not ready to fully pursue further studies.

Many professionals take up educational courses on a whim without accounting for these realistic challenges. As a result, many abandon their studies mid-way and abolish all thought of pursuing higher education from then on.

Unlike the pandemic, the switch to education from work needs to be planned. The worst thing adults returning to college can do is not plan for these risks.

Test Your Resolve—Exploring Online Education as an Adult Student

The best way to eliminate most potential risks of returning to education is by taking part in online educational programs. Currently, many educational institutions are offering customized online programs for working adults. These programs are designed to simplify the process of obtaining degrees and certificates for working professionals. People who are unsure about quitting or halting work for education should try online education first. Opting for online education gives adults –

  • Time-Efficiency: Most online study programs allow students to work at their own pace. The asynchronous formats of the courses suit young professionals who need to schedule study time as per their time requirements. Online education also allows adults to meet their family responsibilities.
  • Easy Access: Adults can technically access their favored educational programs via their cell phones. Don’t have the time to travel to classes or the money to buy education-related gadgets? Online learning eliminates all these issues and allows working professionals to learn at their convenience.
  • Long-Term Cost-Efficiency: Most working adults who consider pursuing higher education have to be budgeting masters. They conduct complex calculations in their heads to determine how much they need to save for different education-related costs. That’s why non-traditional online educational programs are the more cost-efficient option for such adults. These courses demand fewer fees and are more time-efficient. They also don’t involve additional costs like travel, paying for campus rooms, etc.

Final Take

School, as an adult student, has many perks and risks. Online education has decreased the number of risks involved in the process. Worried about this transition? Start by enrolling in a low-cost online study program to understand how it improves your career prospects. For instance, take a six-month part-time certification course for starters. If this short-term experience proves beneficial for your career, making bigger transitions will seem easier in the future!

About the Author

This article was contributed by Digital Senior. If you’ve found this article useful, hop on over to the Digital Senior website for more resources on tertiary education and lifelong learning in Singapore! 

Valentin Berard

COO at GrabJobs. Valentin leads strategic and operational activities regionally. Background in Business Development and Recruitment. Passionate about social innovation, he constantly strives to find solutions to real-world problems through harnessing smart technology. Read more: https://www.linkedin.com/in/valeberard/