Nelson Mandela famously said: “education is the most powerful weapon to change the world” and most Americans agree that furthering your education has a positive impact on your socioeconomic wellbeing and can be a force for uplifting a community. Accessing higher or further education, however, can be difficult, especially for those who have already entered the workforce and need to juggle work and family, while still attempting to study.
From a medical laboratory science degree to a communications masters, furthering your education can mean the difference between living paycheck to paycheck and realizing your personal and professional dreams. In comparison to those with only some college and those with no college education at all who earn a median salary of $30,000 and $28,000 respectively, those with at least a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $45,500 per year, according to a 2012 Pew Research report. In fact, having a four-year degree, whether in communications, business or science, can result in your earning up to 98% more per hour. More than 80% of those surveyed said that their education had “paid off”.
And it is not only the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers that pay. Starting salaries for English majors with bachelor’s degrees average $36,200; mid-career earnings average $63,500. Having a college degree positively impacts on earnings regardless of the chosen field.
Recognizing the need to cater for working adults who want to study further, some institutions offer flexible programmes that make fitting in studying and work easier while still providing a high quality of education. Often one of the most significant stumbling blocks is finance, with most colleges and scholarship programmes targeting high school graduates and few options for adult learners. Such funding programmes do exist, however, if you know where to look.
Another hurdle is confidence. For those who have taken a lengthy break from education, the idea of returning to it can be daunting. They may worry about being judged, being able to cope or whether they will be able to complete the education as planned. The potential benefits however outweigh any perceived obstacles. Choosing a degree that aligns with your interests and career prospects will make the transition easier as you will be doing what you love.