Going back to school can be as much about your organisation wanting you to sharpen your skills, you needing to upgrade your arsenal, or simply because you enjoy learning. Whatever your reasons, going back to school is a huge decision, which requires you to consider many factors. Here are some things that should be on the list.
5 questions you should answer
1. How old are you?
This question is important in so many ways. Since getting that additional qualification usually means taking out a loan (unless it is sponsored), you need to start counting backwards and figure out how many working years you have left before you decide to retire. This will help you figure out whether or not you will be able to work off the loan.
While coming up with the number, remember to factor in your mortgage, education for the kids, and savings for retirement; and the fact that it is time away from paid work. Age also becomes important when you consider the cost versus benefit scenario.
If you are already pushing retirement, then by the time you are done with the degree, it might not translate into too much. Of course, the route you choose may differ. Like starting a business and never planning a retirement!
2. Will you be funded/supported?
Support in such cases has to be from multiple sources. Firstly, you need to know whether you have the financial resources. If not, is your company willing to fund your tuition?
If the idea for qualification enhancement is yours, then do you have the extra money or will you have to take out a loan? Secondly, support also translates into the company helping out with flexible work schedules or time off so that you can study/attend classes.
Lastly, going back to school needs the support of your family, children included. Your spouse may need to put in more hours at work or take on additional responsibilities at home, and you will have to trim your family commitments as well.
3. Does the course have an online option?
With more and more traditional universities offering online courses, it is becoming easier for the working professional to enroll and get an additional qualification.
This works well, especially if your tuition is not being reimbursed or if the company isn’t helping out with flexible hours. You still get to work full time, and you can burn the midnight oil on your own steam!
4. Will going abroad be cheaper?
Sometimes getting that degree abroad works out to be much cheaper than pursuing it in Singapore. A good idea would be exploring options in other countries and working out the cost for your educational adventure.
If you can afford to take time off, then saving a few bucks while sharpening your skills is good business sense. Just remember, it also means time away from family.
5. Will the new degree be relevant?
A very important consideration is the relevance of the new qualification on your CV. You need to move with the times and invest in a course that will actually help you professionally. For example, a course in business administration is so yesterday compared to IT related qualifications.
So if you reappear from your hiatus, writing code, you’ve pretty much got it made!
4 things you should watch out for when thinking about going back to school
1. Dropping out
One of the worst issues that a going back to school scenario faces is dropping out. This happens more often than you think, and results in no degree, an unpaid debt, and a huge loss of self-worth. So weigh your options before you take the plunge.
2. Miscalculating returns
Miscalculating the returns that you are expecting after upgrading your skills is another common mistake. Choosing the wrong stream or course to advance your knowledge in can actually put you behind instead of accelerating your growth.
Stay informed about the field you intend to study in, and whether you will get better opportunities and adequate returns.
Related: 5 Ways to Be a More Skilled Worker
3. Medical and other insurance
Quitting the current job to make time to go back to school also blows a considerable insurance cover off for you and your family. Or, it could start to put a lot of pressure onto the premium payments, especially as you’re older and premiums tend to get more expensive.
So, evaluate your existing coverage, and if necessary, draw out a policy and have enough to pay the premiums even through university.
4. Not researching enough
While choosing your course/institute, it is imperative to know whether they have a good placement network. You must speak with people who have already done this and learn from their experience. Speak to placement teams at universities, meet alums and reach out to industry mentors. A safe bet is to choose safe and reputed institutes.
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