I recently made a big decision for my career; I decided to go back to school for my Master’s degree. A little background: I graduated from nursing school 21 years ago with my Associates degree. I had always maintained that I never had any intention of going back, and for years I didn’t. Then I interviewed for a job I REALLY wanted and I didn’t get it. I realized then that having my BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) would make me much more marketable and increase my chances of eventually getting the job I wanted. Within 3 months I was enrolled and I finished my BSN in June of 2016. On the last day of classes for me, I got offered the job I wanted (2 years after I applied the first time). Coincidence? Maybe, but I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. And now that the learning bug has bitten me, I can’t get enough.
Maybe you’ve thought about going back to school and are unsure. I’ve talked to many people about this over the last several years. Some tell me they are too old, others tell me they don’t have the time, and some tell me that just the thought itself overwhelms them. It IS a huge decision.
I know many people who have degrees and want to make a career change; others never went to school and want to start careers now. Whatever the reason, there is a lot of work to be done before even applying to schools. Where do you start? What things need to be considered? How will you pay for it? Will you have time?
I worked a full-time job (and picked up overtime on the weekends) and I am a single mom, so going to school full-time wasn’t an option. I considered traditional colleges, but going to class 1-2 nights a week was going to take too much time away from my son. After considering online programs, I determined this was the best option for me. I thought that online classes might be a bit easier, but I was very wrong. I literally did schoolwork every night of the week for 5-6 hours a night. I was lucky in that my son was 12 at the time and didn’t need my constant attention. The program I was in had 5-week sessions, so there was a lot of material to cram into those 5 weeks. My Master’s program has 10-week sessions. Each school is different so it’s worth doing research on several schools and figuring out what is best for you. Online schooling also requires a lot of discipline; some people need the structure of traditional classes.
How will you afford it? Some companies offer some form of tuition reimbursement. I was lucky that the company that I worked for reimbursed up to $2500/year. It’s not a huge amount, but every little bit helps. I was also awarded a company scholarship and that helped a bit as well. There are many scholarships out there but you really must do your homework to find them and put a lot of work into getting them.
Of course there are also student loans; you can get federal loans or private. There are pros and cons to both, but most students inevitably end up with some student loans. At the undergraduate level, there are also grants are available to qualified applicants. This will be determined when your financial aid application is processed.
What will it do for your career? Will it help you earn more money? Sadly, money makes the world go ‘round. College, or any schooling, isn’t cheap. Will the cost benefit your career? If not now, will it in the future? The sense of accomplishment you will feel is amazing but it won’t pay those student loan payments, so hopefully graduation means more money for you.
Obviously, there are a lot of things to consider when making such big decision; these were just the main things I was concerned with. Have you thought about going to school? What are your concerns?