Going to college is a big commitment and the whole idea can be a bit overwhelming. It seems that college degrees are becoming more and more essential for career development -- but there are still lots of jobs out there that call for different kinds of career training, like industry-specific certifications or hands-on training. Consider the following factors when deciding whether to make the leap into higher education.
Make Progress Toward Your Career Goals
With major economic shifts, especially in the retail and the manufacturing sectors, the number of entry-level jobs for people without college degrees is dwindling. Many large employers have scaled back their internal training and development programs, relying instead on colleges and universities that can handle those tasks more efficiently. Therefore, a college degree can be important for demonstrating to potential employers that you have the basic skills to handle the tasks they need performed.
Many companies also look at the transcripts of potential hires to determine how "trainable" they are for new projects and assignments. Usually, this is determined less by the overall grade point average earned by an applicant, and more by a track record of challenging courses that reflects a candidate's willingness to stretch themselves beyond their previous limits.
Do I Have the Time and the Money for a College Degree?
Too many talented individuals pass up the opportunity to attend college each year because they assume that they have neither the time nor the money for a degree program. The truth, however, is that college may be more attainable than you realize.
- Flexible Online Classes: Online degree programs make it possible to participate in college classes from any internet-connected computer. With streamed lectures, online discussion boards, instant messaging and virtual learning systems, students who work full-time or are caregivers for family or friends can still gain access to higher education.
- Finding the Funds for a Degree: College can be expensive, but there are many resources that can help. Grants and scholarships can be earned to help reduce tuition costs. Loans can be taken out to cover expenses. Sometimes there are programs that can contribute as well. For example, there are programs that arrange for teachers to have their student loans forgiven by the federal government in exchange for a few years of work in an underserved area.
- Earning Potential with a Degree: Remember that while a college education is expensive, it also opens the door to opportunities for positions and advancement that may not have been available without it. Many employers prefer to hire college graduates, and many higher-ranking positions (such as those in management) require skills that a college education can help to hone.
Education and Training Have Professional and Personal Benefits
College students benefit from spending time with their peers in more ways than just having fun. Even students who take college courses online enjoy the benefits of building positive relationships with other students from around the world. The classmate with whom you collaborate on a project today could be the source of an unexpected job lead ten years after graduation.
Likewise, the power of alumni networks is no longer reserved for graduates of Ivy League institutions. Colleges and universities with strong reputations and notable alumni can lend an extra sparkle on your resume, helping you land an interview or even a job.
Enrolling in a degree program -- online or on-campus -- can be a great opportunity to build strong friendships and personal connections. In our highly segmented society, the common bond of a degree program can help you develop social networks that you never knew existed.