Going Back to School at 30 (The Ultimate Guide + Image Quotes)

Throughout your adolescence and twenties, you assumed that once you hit the “big 30,” your life would fall into place and you would be able to coast through your career. But now that the milestone has passed, you realize that nothing in your career is static, and you'll have to work hard to stay ahead. Returning to school at the age of 30 (or even 35 or 40) is a real possibility.

You can never afford to stop learning in this day and age. You will be left behind if you do not advance in terms of learning new skills. Employers today are looking for employees who are constantly learning. More than ever before, today's workers must anticipate what technological and societal disruptors will have an impact on their jobs in the coming years, and then prepare for them proactively. This is usually accomplished through additional education, such as obtaining an MBA, attending additional seminars and classes, or obtaining new certifications.

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To stay relevant in today's workforce, you must be trained — and frequently retrained. However, the effort will almost certainly be rewarded financially. According to studies, students with a college degree earn 57 percent more than those with only a high school diploma. Those with a master's degree or higher earned 28% more than those with a bachelor's degree.

What is the message? Continue to learn!

1. Prepare Yourself for a Future-Ready Career

Your abilities must evolve at the same rate as technology, which is lightning fast. To position yourself for the future, you'll most likely need advanced technical training that allows you to keep up with new developments.

When deciding to return to school as an adult, look for programs that will provide you with the necessary practical skills.

Inquire with professionals in your desired field about the specific training required. One way to meet these professionals is through LinkedIn, or you can begin by attending industry events.

Read job postings and take note of the educational and technical qualifications to learn the industry's standard requirements. Make certain that the industry is on an upward trend so that your efforts will be rewarded. You don't want to spend thousands of dollars only to be informed that you're now “overqualified.”

2. Understand the Terminology: Certificates, Certifications, and Degrees

But, before you begin those discussions, you might want to brush up on the terminology that defines today's advanced education.

Determine whether you want to pursue a certificate, a professional certification, or a degree. A certificate is most likely the simplest and least expensive option.

Certificates are typically awarded in non-degree programs. You take classes to improve your knowledge of a specific subject. However, make no mistake about it: including this information on your resume will help you stand out. After all, you're demonstrating a dedication to lifelong learning!

Certifications, on the other hand, qualify you to perform a specific job or task. Professional certifications are required as a cost of entry in some technical and educational fields.

Advanced degrees often necessitate even more time commitment, but they can help you skyrocket your earnings. MBAs and MFAs are excellent examples.

If you want to work in finance, you'll probably need an MBA (Masters of Business Administration). An MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree enables writers to teach at accredited high schools and colleges.

If you don't think you'll be able to leave your job for a few years to pursue these degrees, look into Executive MBAs and other low-residency options. Perhaps there is a way for you to earn credits toward your degree while working full-time.

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3. Remind yourself that it is never too late to learn

While additional training may entice you to return to school at the age of 30, you may also decide that it is important to complete a degree that you began but put on hold for a variety of reasons.

This was the case with Shaquille O'Neal, also known as “Shaq.” He began his 19-year NBA career after only three years at Louisiana State University. However, he later earned a Bachelor's degree in general studies before going on to earn an MBA and then a PhD in education.

Steven Spielberg felt compelled to complete a degree he had not yet completed. He dropped out of California State University, Long Beach, just a few credits shy of graduating. He completed his requirements more than three decades later, including submitting his film, “Schindler's List,” to satisfy a film course requirement.

It's possible that by the age of 30, you've realized that the career path you pursued in your twenties is no longer one in which you want to stay. This happened to Carly Fiorina, the CEO of Hewlett Packard and a 2016 presidential candidate in the United States.

She went to law school after graduating from Stanford with a bachelor's degree in history and philosophy. She dropped out after one semester and found work at a commercial real estate brokerage firm. She eventually decided she wanted to explore other areas of business and returned to school to get her MBA. It landed her a job at AT&T, where she was promoted to management within two years. The company sponsored Fiorina's participation in a fellowship program at MIT's Sloan School of Management, which launched her career as HP's CEO.

Returning to school at 30 — or when adult life catches up with you — can be difficult, especially if you have multiple responsibilities. For example, Mandy Ginsberg, CEO of Match Group North America, the parent company of Tinder and other online dating services, enrolled as a single mother in one of the most difficult academic environments in the world. The chaos of earning an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business while raising a child proved manageable by rallying a support team around her.

As a result, it is never too late to learn and make changes in your life.

4. Strike a Balance

Whether you're taking a few skill-based classes or pursuing a full degree, finding the time is often the most difficult aspect of returning to school when you're 30 and up.

Not only do you have to balance the demands of staying on top of course work, but you may also have to balance the demands of your day job — and possibly even a spouse and children.

If you plan to return to school after the age of 30, make sure you know exactly what you want to get out of your degree.

Before deciding on a school or program, do your homework. Look up the school's program rankings and take note of the program's graduation rate as well as the types of jobs its graduates get. Make a goals chart for yourself and pin it to a bulletin board above your computer. According to research, writing down your goals is the most effective way to achieve them.

What about online alternatives? Online programs may be the best option for you in terms of convenience and degree options. However, they do not always have the cachet of in-person study programs.

Before enrolling in an online program, ensure that the school is reputable, accredited, and that students are provided with the necessary support. Look for reviews to get a sense of how students feel about various programs.

If you can afford to take time off from your current job and return to campus, you may find it easier to make new connections among professors and classmates, all of whom will hopefully become an important part of your business network.

Determine whether you can cut back to part-time work and go to school full-time as you investigate how to juggle the demands of work and school. If this is the case, you will be able to complete your degree sooner.

However, if you need to keep your full-time job, find out ahead of time what the minimum course load is for enrollment. While part-time enrollment may make work more manageable, it may preclude you from receiving financial aid.

Final Thoughts

Ideally, your education should lead to a career that allows you to repay any student debt you incur. Still, it's critical to do the math to determine whether returning to school will pay off in the long run. Compare the cost of tuition and other fees to the amount of money you're likely to make.

It's a good idea to inform your coworkers and boss that you'll be returning to school. This will demonstrate to them that you are motivated to improve yourself. When they understand what you're up to, they may be more understanding as you juggle your new responsibilities. If your company has a tuition-reimbursement program, your employer may be able to help cover some of the costs.

Returning to school at 30 will demonstrate to current and prospective employers that your mind is still active and your outlook is still broad. At 30 — and beyond — there's no reason not to pursue education that will pay off in the long run.

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