It used to be that when a working adult, or a career-changer, wanted to further his or her education,
there were only a few options. You could quit your job and go back to school full-time, or go to night school or Evening classes, which generally meant taking classes at the community college or through the adult education department of the local school system…
These days, “night school” has grown to mean everything from adult ed, online degree programs or even women in leadership and everything in between. Whether you want to study accounting, nursing, or even liberal arts, chances are there’s a program that will work for you either locally or online. But how do you know if going back to school, while you have a job and other responsibilities is right for you? Ask yourself some of these questions:
Do I have a flexible schedule?
Even if you plan to take courses online, you need to devote time to reading lectures and participating in discussions as well as completing assignments. If you’re taking in-person courses, most meet at least once a week for several hours. Will your schedule allow you to devote the time necessary to completing your work? If you generally work well into the evening, for example, it might be impossible for you to get to an in-person class on time each week. If you have many responsibilities, you’ll need excellent time management to tackle everything that needs to be done.
Do I have a support system?
If you have a family to care for, having a good support system is imperative if you are going back to school. Not only will someone need to watch the kids while you go to class, you’ll probably need blocks of time when you can do your homework. Even if you take an online course and can read and participate after the kids go to bed or while they are in school, you’ll still need help handling household responsibilities so everything gets done.
Can I work without supervision?
When it comes to night school, especially online programs, you have to be comfortable working alone in order to accomplish everything. If you can’t manage your time and commit to working independently, an in-person program might be a better choice.
Will this program help me reach my career goals?
One of the major reasons that people return to school is to get ahead at work – essentially, to earn more money. Before enrolling in an education program and devoting your resources to the program, do an honest assessment of what the program offers and how it will help you achieve your goals.
How long will it take?
When you are combining part time study, with a career and family responsibilities, it is difficult to take a full course load; some programs only allow students to take one or two courses at a time for that reason. This means that it can take longer to complete your degree or certificate program. Taking one course at a time for a master’s degree, for example, with 10 week courses, means it will take approximately four years to earn a degree. Consider the number of courses required to complete a program of study, how long it will take to complete them and gauge how long you are willing to study.
How much does it cost?
Some people consider night school because they believe it will be less expensive than traditional education programs. That’s not always the case, unfortunately. When evaluating whether to go back to school, consider the entire cost of the program – including books – and how much financial aid you’ll receive. Keep in mind that some employers offer tuition reimbursement, which can reduce your costs, but you still may end up paying out of pocket. Determine how much you’re willing to spend and if the cost is worthwhile in the long run, in terms of a larger salary or greater opportunities.
Choosing to go back to school requires a major commitment, of time, energy and money – but the benefits can far outweigh any sacrifices. If you’re not sure that night school or part time education is right for you, take one course to test the waters and determine if you want to continue.
This guest post article was written and provided by Marissa Krause who finished her degree online this last fall and has just begun her own online marketing company.