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Stick With Your Job or Earn a Degree? Questions to Ask

Feb 24, 2014 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 2 Comments

It’s not easy to go to college full-time while you’re working a full-time job. Many workers solve the problem by going to school on a part-time basis, which makes the time taken to earn a degree much longer. Others scale back to part-time hours or quit their jobs entirely so they can concentrate fully on school.

If you’re struggling to decide whether to leave your job or seriously cut back in order to make more time in your life for your studies, here are a few questions to ask yourself.

Is there opportunity for advancement where you work?

Are you stuck in a dead-end job—or is there a path for advancement where you currently work? If there’s a possibility for you to move to a position that’s at least close to what you want in terms of a career, you may be well positioned right now where you are—even if you don’t yet have the job you want.

Do you enjoy the work you do?

If you’re miserable where you work, you might see getting a degree as a much-needed escape. But this could blind you to whether or not you actually need a degree—and whether school is really the right step to take in your career right now. If you’re unhappy at work, consider whether going back to school would primarily be a way to get out of a bad situation—or whether you have a concrete goal that requires that degree.

Do you make enough money to support yourself and your family?

If you’re not making enough money to live the life you want—and there’s no prospect for earning that type of money in the career path you’re currently on—going back to school might be a good investment. Statistics show that those with Bachelor’s degrees earn an average of $1 million more per year than those who have not gone farther than high school; those with Masters degrees earn $1.4 million more; and those with doctoral degrees earn an average of $2 million more.

However, not all traditional and accredited online degrees lead to high-earning careers; if income is a major motivator for you, do some research on the average income and availability of the type of job you’re thinking of before committing to a degree program.

What kind of degree would you need?

Is a degree required to take the next step in your career? Do the people you know with positions similar to the one you want have higher degrees or certifications? What do employers look for and what do they prefer? What are job ads in the field asking for? Do some research on this as well—it may be that you don’t actually need the degree you think you need.

Would your employer be willing to pay your tuition?

You may not have to choose between your job and your degree. Some employers will reimburse employees for some or all of the tuition they pay. The caveat is that you usually have to sign a pledge to stay at the company for a certain number of years after you earn the degree, and the subject has to be relevant to your work with the company. However, this can be an ideal situation for some workers.

The answer on whether or not to quit your job and go to school will vary depending on your situation. However, it’s important to carefully consider these factors before making a move. If there are possible opportunities within your current company, it may be worthwhile to stay there while you earn a degree. If your employer is willing to pay your tuition, so much the better.



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