There is a lot of pressure to go to college at a certain point in life, but the “right time” to continue your education is different for everybody.
No matter when you start, education is an investment that pays off. For example, among people ages 25-32 who are working full-time, those with a bachelor’s degree earn $17,500 more than those with a high school diploma, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Additionally, the data shows that college graduates in this group are more likely to think of their job as a career or a stepping stone to a career than those with a high school diploma.
Here are nine signs it’s time for you to take the next step in your education and your career:
1. You know what you want to do in life
Choosing a major can be a difficult decision, and according to data from Penn State’s Division of Undergraduate Studies, 20% to 50% of college undergrads enter college undecided. If you already know what career you want and what you need to do to get there, then you are ahead of the game.
Look for a college or university that offers multiple entry points to degree advancement depending on your academic and professional experience. These institutions will work to maximize the transferability of your prior credits and work experience. Additionally, dual credit and accelerated programs can help reduce time to your degree, so you can start earning as soon as possible.
2. Tuition options
There are costs associated with college beyond tuition. The good news is that there are options that can help take some of the financial weight off your shoulders, such as scholarships, financial aid and benefits for veterans and military personnel. A tuition calculator can help you determine the total cost of your education.
If you have considered all the costs and you are able to afford them, then you could be ready to make an investment in furthering your education.
3. You want to make more money
Earning a bachelor’s degree or a master's degree can help you gain the skills you need to advance to higher-paying positions in your field. Or, maybe you’re interested in changing your career altogether to a field that offers you more opportunity. Either way, going to college is the right place to start if you want to increase your earning potential.
In fact, a study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce concluded that bachelor’s degree holders earn 84% more over the course of their lifetimes than those with a high school diploma.
4. You can’t progress anymore in your career
Maybe you have a degree, but you’re not sure that you’re in the right industry or on the correct career path. Completing your undergraduate degree or advancing your degree can open the door to new opportunities within your organization, or help you switch careers entirely.
Consider academic programs that are focused on career development and advancement, such as an MBA program that provides the business knowledge, leadership and problem-solving skills you need to advance. Programs that prepare you for industry certification exams can help position you for more specialized roles after graduation.
5. You want more responsibility
Maybe you are in a career that you love, but you feel that you have the potential to do more. Continuing your education can help you hone the skills you already have or learn new skills that will allow you to take on more responsibility in your current job. For example, registered nurses can expand their scope of practice by completing a Master of Science in Nursing degree and taking a step to become a family nurse practitioner, nurse educator or nurse leader.
6. You want to do something that is more fulfilling
It’s never too late to start pursuing the career you’re truly passionate about. Earning a degree in information technology helped Herzing graduate Ronald Crayon make the jump from a dead-end telemarketing job to a new career at a leading healthcare company.
“Completing my bachelor’s degree helped me become a well-rounded IT professional,” he says. “I feel that now I have the skills and the knowledge to really make a difference.”
7. You have the time for it
Going to college will be a better experience if you are able to invest the time needed to succeed. However, it is possible to go to college while balancing a career and having a family. Many universities today offer online courses, making it easier for busy students – many of whom have families or careers to think about – to fit education into their lives.
8. You are looking to learn and grow academically
Business is constantly evolving, and it helps to keep up with the latest industry trends, technology and advancements. The knowledge you gain from continuing your education could lead to a revelation that you want to do something different in your field, or something else entirely. No matter what, continuing your education will always be beneficial in helping you grow as a person and in your career.
9. You know what you want and what it will take to get there
If you already have an idea of what going to college can do for your future, this is a sign that you are ready to take the next step. Navigating the next phase in your career is challenging, but with the right school, it’s possible to find a program that meets your individual needs and puts you on the path to long-term career success.