Education is one of the best tools available to help you break the barriers of your current situation. It has consistently helped elevate those traditionally placed in the lower classes and has evened the playing field for professionals around the world. Today it doesn’t matter where you came from, just what you can do, and that is all thanks to education becoming more widespread and accessible than ever before.
Of course, it may seem like education is becoming increasingly inaccessible, especially when you consider the ever-increasing tuition costs and the more competitive job market. Though things are certainly different than they were just a few decades ago, when having a bachelor’s, and especially having a master’s, puts you leagues ahead of others in the workforce, there are still some big reasons to invest in a higher education degree.
Higher education can help propel your career. It can help you find meaning and fulfillment in your life. It can open new doors for your future that would never have been possible without it.
Of course, it could also be a large investment with little return. Knowing what you want to do, what degree will help you achieve those goals, and also how to get the best return out of your educational investment is a must.
Instances Where Higher Education is Essential
Occasionally, higher education is not something that would be nice for your career but a legal requirement.
It is a Requirement Before You Can Take a Licensing Exam
If your career path requires you to take a state licensing exam and pass it before you get started as a working professional, then chances are you need that degree. Nurses, for example, need to take a state exam after every single degree, diploma, or certification. This means not only do they need a degree that helps them pass the exam and do the job, but it also needs to be accredited.
Those looking to further their nursing career or even start a second career later on into nursing need to ensure that the degree in question is accredited by an accrediting body that their state exam recognizes. This is one of the few times that accredited degrees are essential.
Only Degree-Holding Experts Are Hired in the Field You Want to Work In
There are many fields where degree-holders are the norm, and therefore trying to enter the job market without one will be a mighty task, particularly if you don’t have connections within a company.
The bad news is that many job roles today will look for a minimum amount of education, usually a bachelor’s degree. This is because BA and BSc degrees are so prevalent today that many employers think they are essential, even if the work involved doesn’t actually require one.
However, getting the most out of your undergraduate degree means also getting a leg up on the career ladder. Rather than solely rely on what you learn, try to be active in extracurriculars, and use the career service department to help you get your first job, an internship, or even a traineeship before you graduate.
You Want to Work in Education or Academia
If you love the world of academics and want to work as an educator, a researcher, or generally within the academic sector, then the rule of thumb is that you will need to have a degree, and in many cases, even more than one.
Thankfully, continuing your education, especially post-graduate doctoral degrees, is a great way to get your foot in the door. Of course, this isn’t the only way to work within academia or research, but it can help significantly.
You Want to Work in the Sciences
Almost every STEM career field will require you to have a degree and even multiple degrees. This is simply used as a benchmark to ensure that you know the necessary information to get the job done, and in some cases may even be a legal requirement. Once again, investing in further education here can actually help you open up career opportunities, helping you get even more out of your degrees.
Instances Where Higher Education is Recommended
There are many job roles that don’t actually need a degree to do. Marketing, business management, roles in the entertainment industry, and so on. You will need to learn, of course, but where you learn is a bit more flexible. You can learn on the job, learn through workshops, and so on to build up the skillset you need. Shadowing can even be used, as can traineeships or apprenticeships. If the career path you want to go forward with is one of these instances, you only need a higher education degree in these instances:
When You Want to Stand out as a Candidate
If the role you want to work towards doesn’t require a specific degree, then choose a degree that will best help your overall career. For example, a degree in business, or a degree in management, can help you stand out as a candidate in every role you apply for. That being said, you may also find that short courses, workshops, and so on are more valuable to your career instead. If this is the case, always choose the most valuable education option.
You Want to Branch Over Your Skillset
Degrees offer a comprehensive introduction to a new set of skills. For example, if you currently work as a high-level skilled tradesperson, you may find it beneficial to earn a business degree before setting off on your own and starting up your own company. Likewise, if you are a manager and want to work your way up into a specific industry or role, then earning a degree that will help showcase your ability to specifically manage that one particular industry, you can stand out as a candidate.
You Want to Make a Big Career Change
The other instance where you will want to earn a degree, though it isn’t essential, is if you want to make a big career change. Career changes can be a big challenge, but you should be able to transition more successfully by using a new degree and your existing work experience.
Instances Where Another Route Would Be Preferrable
Not every job nor every career will require a higher education degree, but training and educational investment are still key. Working in the trades, obtaining an apprenticeship, and even learning on your own time can help you immensely and will be preferable to having a degree.
If you want to work in the trades, working with your hands in either college courses or apprenticeships can be the preferred option to a higher education degree. For example, you may work in construction, be a physical artist, and so on. By apprenticing, you can learn and earn.
Workshops, Conferences, and Other Training
There are many industries where the only real training you need is to help certify your use of new tools. Take the entertainment industry, for example. While a lot of what you need to know can be learned by shadowing or on the job, there will be a barrier when there is a new software program you need to know how to use perfectly before you can get started. Short-term courses or workshops can help bring you up to speed and teach you how to use those essential tools, but they themselves are not considered a higher education degree.
Regardless of whether you invest in a degree, a workshop, or learn on the job, one thing you should always do for yourself, and your career is continuing to learn on your own time. Personal or lifelong learning helps enrich your personal life and also your career. In some career options, it is actually a legal requirement. For example, in nursing and other healthcare degrees, many states require ongoing professional development to renew your license.
Don’t just assume that personal learning should begin and end with what can benefit your career. You never know when what you learn about in a history book or an art course can help your career, and simply investing in yourself based on your interests can help improve your wellbeing and open up new options and allow you to discover new passions.
Don’t Be Afraid to Retrain and Recertify
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is assuming that you cannot go back or that it isn’t worthwhile to go and earn yet another degree in order to make a career change. In many careers, true, it may not be necessary to go back to basics or even work to earn a post-master’s certificate, but there are many instances where retraining and recertifying are highly recommended:
- You Want to Specialize in a New Field
Recertifying can be daunting, but if the role you want to work in requires certification, then it is the best way forward to a more fulfilling life and career. Take nursing, for example. APRNs need to decide which role they want to work in when they start their MSN. They then need to complete their MSN degree and pass the state exam.
As time goes on and that APRN gets older, however, they may want to slow down or even start a new career path that puts them in charge instead of following orders. If that APRN does not have the right qualifications, they could be barred from the options that they want.
The good news is that there is an option to earn an online post-master’s degree. This option is open to many across industries but is most visibly important for nurses. A CNS-APRN that wants to open their own practice, for example, won’t be able to unless they have an FNP-MSN, but thankfully as they already hold an MSN, they can easily earn an online post master’s FNP certificate. This certificate can take two years, or even less, and will immediately make that nurse double-certified as a CNS and FNP nurse.
- You Want to Make a Big Career Change
Earning a second degree to make a career change is another great example we have already covered in this guide. The good news is that your existing degree doesn’t have to be useless to you, especially if it is in the same field as where you want your career to go.
If you have a science-related degree, for example, but want to get into nursing, then you can use many of the credits involved in your degree to fast-track through your BSN. In fact, many degrees allow you to fast-track if you already have a degree, and in instances where you don’t have all the prerequisite courses, you can take foundation courses instead.
- You Want to Diversify Your Skillset
Diversifying your skillset is another instance where you will technically retrain. Though you can earn two undergraduate degrees, you may be surprised at how often you can actually “advance” your skillset by earning a higher education degree.
For example, if you currently work as an engineer, you don’t need to go back and earn a bachelor’s in business to learn what you need to start your own business or to work as an executive-level manager. Instead, you can earn an MBA or equivalent.
When you work to diversify your skill set, you continue to use the skills you have learned so far; you are just adding to them. The right master’s program or extra foundation courses can help you brush up your knowledge and specialize further by expanding your knowledge.
Is A Higher Education Degree Right for You?
A good way to ensure that a full degree is the right move for your career is to first look through non-degree education options. If those options won’t train you enough or help you enough, then a degree can.
Similarly, if the career you want to get into has formal qualifications and requirements, then you will need an accredited degree.
Exploring your options and concluding that a degree is the best move for your career is the best way to ensure you are getting a good return on your investment and ensuring that your further education will take your career as far as possible.