The pressure to get a college education is as high as ever, but so are the risks. Rising school costs and a stagnant job market have raised plenty of concerns among would-be students, with some even being discouraged from going to school entirely. After all, the end goal of any degree track is to position yourself for a great, rewarding career and a good income; if those aren’t in the cards, your education is a bad investment.
Students can mitigate these risks in several ways, such as pursuing low-cost degrees and entering a field with excellent job growth, strong incomes and high current need. But there are other aspects of schooling to consider as well. Read on for some guidance on how to pursue an education that benefits your career.
Taking education—and its costs—seriously
The best way to view your education is as an investment. The more it costs, the more you’ll have to earn throughout your career to make the degree worth the cost. And time investment also matters—a one-year degree is much different from a four-year degree and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, anticipated job growth during the 10-year period from 2010 to 2020 is greater for associate degree holders than for bachelor’s degree holders.
Meanwhile, many students are forced to scale back their income in order to make more time for schooling, which creates short-term income strains that can be difficult to handle. As student loans become a more cumbersome form of debt than even credit card spending, education choices are increasingly critical. Prospective students need to weigh their options and make sure they can handle the education process; otherwise, they’re just taking on debt without creating a viable opportunity to pay it off.
Before making any final decisions, students should always review the financial ramifications of such a degree. What are the post-degree earning prospects? How much more income will be gained with a degree vs. without one? Can the cost of education be managed while still in school? Will the financial aid repayments be feasible when you graduate and start your new career? If you can answer all of these questions and still feel comfortable about getting a degree, then going back to school may be a good choice for you.
Excelling at the school/work/life balance
Managing work and life is difficult as it is. Tossing school onto the pile can be downright suffocating. Some degrees though, such as medical assistant programs or others related to the medical field, can offer great post-degree job prospects and earning potential and present minimal challenges while you’re going through them. There are financial and time management factors to consider however, and students have to make sure they’re on top of their game throughout their studies.
With that in mind, there are a few things you can do to alleviate stress and stay in control. It’s no surprise that getting ahead on duties and responsibilities can help you avoid conflict down the road, so applying for scholarships well ahead of their due dates is recommended. November is National Scholarship Month, so try to use that as an inspiration to work ahead.
You’ll also want to manage your finances well to make sure you don’t fall behind on financial assistance repayment. Your schooling might also force you to cut back on work hours, which could reduce your flexible spending allotment.
Ultimately, though, always remember that the primary goal of your education is to build toward a promising career with decent earning potential. Shorter degree tracks can get you out working—and earning a better wage—much faster than other paths, so the duration of your studies definitely matters. Take some time to weigh the career prospects of your various degree options and choose the path that best suits you.
Lindsey is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area. She enjoys writing on educational topics and home living. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master’s degree.
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