When Does It Pay to Go Back to School in Midlife?

A degree or certificate won't guarantee a job. Here's how to increase chances of finding new work

by Nancy Collamer, M.S. • Next Avenue
woman computer image
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

I suspect many Americans in their 50s and 60s are considering going back to school to improve their career prospects.

After all, getting additional education in midlife – whether it’s a bachelors degree, a masters or a certificate – can be an excellent way to move into a new career, earn a promotion or make more money. 

But college isn’t cheap and there’s no guarantee that further schooling will lead to a new job or fatten your paycheck. So when does it pay to go back to school after age 50 or so?

(MORE: Why I Went Back to College)

A Midlife Degree Is No Job Guarantee
I got to thinking about this issue after my editor forwarded me an email from a distraught 59-year-old Next Avenue reader. She couldn't find a job after picking up a bachelor's degree in social work because employers said she lacked the necessary experience.
 
That’s an all too common chicken-and-egg predicament faced by many new, older graduates: You need relevant experience to get a new job, but you need a job to gain relevant experience.
 
If going back to school, either for a degree or a certificate, is something you’re thinking about, here are three considerations for choosing a program wisely, plus two tips to help you find a job after completing your studies:

How to Select a Back-to-School Program
Research employment rates for new graduates. There was a time when pretty much any college degree was a ticket to a new job. But those days are long gone.

According to "Hard Times, College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings 2013," a study just released by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, the choice of a college major determines your likelihood of unemployment.

The study found that the unemployment rate was roughly 5 percent for recent nursing and education majors, but more than 10 percent for grads with degrees in architecture and information systems, concentrated in clerical functions.

(MORE: Update Your Skills at a Community College)

So you’ll want to research official employment statistics by industry before enrolling anywhere. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good source for this type of information.

Click here to read the rest of the story on Next Avenue

Photo courtesy of Maria Sbytova/Shutterstock.com

Next: Why Companies Need All the Middle-Aged Brains They Can Get

Don’t miss out on MORE great articles like this one. Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter!

What’s your reaction?

Comments

Post new comment

Click to add a comment