ADVICE

Going back to school as a working professional? Here’s what you should know

SOURCE: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP
A postgraduate degree can be a stepping stone for career advancement, which is why going back to school as a working professional is becoming a common practice.


By U2B Staff 

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Are you planning to return to go back to school as a working professional? The transition from work to school can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be with the right preparation. 

In recent years, an increasing number of adults are choosing to go back to school to enhance their competitiveness in the job market, or to develop new skills to prepare them for new careers or to help them with a promotion. 

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While motivations to go back to school might vary from one individual to the next, it’s natural for many to feel nervous about going back to school, especially if it’s been a while since the last attended university. 

Here are some tips for going to back to school as a working professional:

Finding the right fit for your programme

Life is more complex in your 30s, 40s and 50s than it was in your late teens or early 20s. At this stage of your life you might have kids to worry about, aging parents under your care, as well as a house and car loan to fret over, on top of a demanding career.

If you’re worried about your ability to juggle your personal life, work and coursework as a graduate student, it’s important to contact the programme advisor to see how your course will fit in with your schedule, especially if you’re planning to study on a part-time basis.

You should check the timing of classes and see what sort of learning options and support are available (eg. a combination of on-campus and online learning) that would enable you to balance your schedule more comfortably.  

Apart from finding a programme that suits your schedule, finding the right fit also entails identifying how the programme will help you reach your professional goals.

If you’re pursuing an online postgraduate course, you’ll also want to do your homework to see what kind of technical support will be available if you need it.

Also contributing to your overall learning experience is your cohort. If you’re an aspiring MBA student, for instance, you’ll want to explore who the programmes’ faculty are as well as the type of students they typically attract as some schools attract younger candidates while others attract older ones.

Funding your postgraduate studies

For some, going back to school as a working professional is less financially taxing as you may be more financially comfortable at this age.  

For those who are less privileged, funding your higher education can be a major hurdle and source of stress.

You might not feel comfortable taking on more debt if you’re still servicing your undergraduate student loans, so why not do some research to see if your employer is willing to fully, or partially, foot the bill for your education?  

This entails knowing your company culture, checking if anyone else in the company has done anything similar in the past, as well as assessing your value to see how your newly added skills will benefit the company before pitching it to your superior.

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Think thoroughly about the learning process

It might have been many years since you last stepped foot in university and the thought of going back can be daunting. 

You’ll have to get used to attending classes, engaging in research, doing group work with students who may be fresh graduates or older adults to diving into research literature and writing long essays will entail developing a new mindset and skills.

So learn to develop new habits, and adapt to new technology that can help you complete your work faster and more efficiently. There are bibliography and citation tools, digital recording devices for lectures, and using social media to connect with your classmates for quick communication. 

At the end of the day, learning is an investment. With the right preparation, no ceiling will be too high to break.