What to Go Back to School For: Considerations, Career Paths and More

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Category: Going Back to School

By Matt Rowley
Posted on

If you’re a working adult with goals of developing new skills, improving your financial future, or even changing careers, it’s natural to think about going back to school. Doing so can provide you with new opportunities and challenges, and online and flexible school options have made it more possible to balance studies with your current jobs and family commitments.

You may find yourself thinking: “I want to go back to school, but I don’t know what for.” In this article, we'll help you outline a plan to determine which career path and degree program may be a good fit for you.

Find Your Passion

One way to start determining a good fit for a new career path is by making a list of the activities and topics you're passionate about. Next to each one, list all the jobs you can think of that are associated with it. For example, if you care deeply about serving your community, you might enjoy a public service career. Narrow your list down to the items you're most passionate about that also have good job prospects and earning potential.

To explore this phase even further, search for career assessments or other online resources to help you identify your passions. One popular option is the Holland Codes, a system that classifies individuals by interests and matches them with careers in one of six areas: building, thinking, creating, helping, persuading and organizing.

Related: Career Assessments for Veterans

Research Career Paths

When researching potential career paths, reach out to people you know who have careers that interest you to learn what they studied, what are the pros and cons of that career, and how to progress in it.

Additionally, use reputable online resources to learn about different industries and opportunities. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes its Occupational Outlook Handbook with national statistics about employment projections, median salaries and more.

Identify Your Workplace Preferences

Your workplace can have a big impact on your day-to-day job satisfaction. For example, if you currently work in the restaurant industry and no longer want to be on your feet all day, you may be interested in a different hospitality job in which you’re sitting at a desk instead. You may also prefer jobs and employers that typically feature remote work or flexible hours. Knowing your workplace preferences can help you narrow down your options significantly.

Consider the Job Market

As you cultivate your list of career path options, research each one to define the market for it in your region. If you live in a city saturated with technology professionals, the market for those jobs might be more competitive than others. Alternately, if safety professionals are in low supply and high demand in your area, that may be a difference-maker in your decision.

Job market data can be an important factor in your decision, but keep in mind that it shouldn’t be the only factor. If you pursue a career path because you believe it’s in demand, but it doesn’t fit your passion and workplace preferences, you may regret that decision.

Find a Mentor

If you're struggling to choose a career path, a career mentor can give you clarity and advice. Find someone who knows you well and can offer recommendations and guide you in your decision. This might be a co-worker, boss, friend or professional. Additionally, an ideal mentor is someone who also works in a career field that interests you.

Career Path Ideas

There is no definitive list of “best careers to go back to school for,” but we’ve compiled some ideas below that align with the degree programs available to students here at Columbia Southern University.

  • Cybersecurity. Businesses and government agencies alike need qualified cybersecurity professionals. Online threats are evolving, and cyberattacks continue to be a danger for organizations of all sizes.
  • Education. Even if you don’t have a background – or interest – in classroom teaching, there are many kinds of non-teaching jobs in education. Whether it’s as a school administrator or a curriculum developer, educators have plenty of options to make a difference in students’ lives, in and out of the classroom.
  • Health Care Administration. You don't have to go to medical school to be a successful health care professional. Administrative jobs, such as database administrators or financial managers, are essential for smooth operations.
  • Human Resources. Employers of all sizes need skilled HR professionals, and there are many specialties within the industry. Employee relations jobs may be a good fit for problem-solvers and relationship-builders, while those who are naturally skilled with technology may succeed in managing an organization’s human resources information systems.

Related: Civilian Careers for Military Veterans

Research Education Requirements

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of possible career paths, it’s helpful to also research the typical education requirements for those jobs. Does one career path typically require at least a bachelor’s degree, while another typically only requires an associate degree or certificate? What about master’s degrees? And will employers in your chosen industry have preferences for degrees from accredited institutions versus others?

These are all worthwhile questions to ask before restarting your college journey.

The Bottom Line

Going back to school as a working adult can be both intimidating and exciting. For many adult students, enrolling in an online degree program makes the most sense, allowing them to learn from the comfort of their home.

Here at Columbia Southern University, our online degree programs are designed with you in mind. Additionally, our Career Services team provides invaluable resources and career coaching, and our Admissions team is available to help you receive academic credit for previous experience, including work experience.

To learn more, visit our website today.

Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography and degree field, affect career outcomes. CSU does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, eligibility for a position, or other career growth.

Transferring credits does not guarantee reduced tuition or amount of courses.

Columbia Southern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate, baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degrees and certificates. Questions about the accreditation of Columbia Southern University may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (www.sacscoc.org).

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