Have you been thinking about getting a degree? In these tough economic times, perhaps you heard that people with degrees tend to stay employed more for longer or earn more. Perhaps you want to qualify for a promotion or new job but see that a specific degree is a requirement. Perhaps you just want to explore this further. However, if you have ever seriously explored this, you may know its challenging to get a degree or study further as an adult. One look at the fees and most are ready to run. And if that doesn’t scare you, the drop out rates or degree completion rates for working adults might. Or the time needed to study… Not to mention the idea that all the people studying are straight out of high school and…. Or maybe you didn’t do maths, or pass maths, or study in English or other stuff…
So what should you do? There are some great reasons to get a degree and some strategies for studying as a working adult. More than that, the fastest-growing group enrolled for higher education are working adults. Still, there are a few things you should know before you commit and pay to study further to ensure that this goal is right for you and your time, money and effort is not wasted. This post will tell you why you might find it worthwhile before you decide to study further, especially if you are over 30 or 50.
Some of you may be facing work and career requirements, where if you want to stay in a certain role or be promoted or become a manager, your company may require you to get a degree. This is great when you also want to get a degree and see that the career path ahead of you is what you want. This is even better if your boss and company are prepared to support you in getting your degree, and you can negotiate for support, accountability by adding this to your personal development KPI or apply for funding and study leave. Some companies go further, and put together groups of employees and work with higher education providers to provide a programme that fits your context. This can be a double-edged sword if your company expects you to study for a degree but won’t give you time to write exams or support your studies at all. So start a conversation with your manager or HR about what can and won’t happen. Ask to talk to people in the company who are currently studying to see if the support is real or conditional.
Another reason may be that instead of staying at a company or current job, you want to shift into a new career. Studying a degree as a stepping stone to where you want to go is a great way to set up a shift and give you a reason to apply into a new space. Again some companies may support this and others may be upset if you reveal you are planning to move on so use your discretion about sharing your next moves.
The evidence is clear that having a degree can contribute to job security, can increase average earnings or improve job satisfaction as you feel trained for the position. However, this does vary depending on the field and type of qualification, as well as the fit for your current job or company. So I will discuss this in more detail in a future blog.
And lastly, perhaps you have always wanted to but didn’t have the opportunity when leaving school or have changed your mind since you left school. You feel like there is something that you are missing that you really want to meet this goal. Maybe it’s about self-respect, or being able to be proud of what you are doing, or staying up to date with a changing world. I remember chatting with a father who started studying when his daughter was at university and his dream was to stand with her in an academic gown at graduation. It was tough to match the pace while studying part-time, but he made it. So make it clear to your self and explore what you think getting a degree will bring you. And then check if this will happen as a result of a specific degree. So often, self-respect is not about qualifying or having a credential. Ask yourself if these reasons will be enough to work at night or study while others are out having a braai.
Choosing to study further needs some planning and research. The blogs that follow will assist you in exploring the related issues and decisions. Making sure you are doing it for the right reasons, and that this will keep you going when it gets tough is important. Keep in mind that a degree is often a 3 to 5 year commitment. Although, as Dr Henry Cloud pointed out, the next 5 years will come, and in 5 years you can either have a degree or not… So what will you choose today?