Embrace Lifelong Learning

higher education, graduationIt’s September, and even if you aren’t getting your own children out to school or off to college, you can’t miss seeing those familiar yellow buses everywhere.  This is a good time to take a breath and think about our own lifelong learning plans.

Education comes in many forms, and it’s not just for the young.  There are many personal and professional reasons to continue one’s learning.  In today’s competitive employment environment, it may not be just a matter of keeping up with your job using your existing education and skill set.  With today’s technology and the variety and quality of online programs, continuing learning may become a requirement in some professions and companies.

Perhaps you were never able to finish your bachelor’s degree due to other priorities such as family circumstances and the cost of education.  You’re not alone:  recent studies show that up to 38% of the eighteen million college students in the United States are age 25 or over.  These “nontraditional” students include many who are employed full-time while attending college part-time.  If you’re able to fit in a class or two each semester, you can quickly complete your degree, enhancing your resume and contributing to your personal growth.

stack of books, educationIf you already have an undergraduate degree, you might consider pursuing a master’s degree in your chosen field, or one which would complement your profession.  A higher level degree requires deep research into your chosen subject and can provide some fascinating learning experiences.

Professional Certifications are available in nearly all careers, and earning a certificate in your chosen field shows your commitment to your profession, as well as acknowledgement by your peers.  Human Resources certifications may be earned through nationally recognized organizations such as SHRM, as well as at many colleges and universities.

If you’ve been out of the classroom for a lot of years, it may seem a daunting task to begin school again.  But with today’s technology, there are many different approaches available for nontraditional students that can fit in with your busy lifestyle:

In-person Classes:  check out nearby colleges and universities for their offerings.  Many provide flexible schedules such as evening and weekend classes.

Online learning:  in addition to those colleges that are only online, you’ll find that many traditional institutions offer classes or even full degree programs through the internet.  Imagine earning an MBA from a school you’ve dreamed about, that is located across the country!  Best of all, there is increased recognition of the quality of online degrees as comparable to face-to-face learning.

To help cover some or all of the costs of obtaining a degree or professional certification, check to see if your organization offers a Tuition Assistance Program.  Many of these plans require that the degree you’re seeking be related to your current job or a position that you could reasonably attain.  However, as each program is different, be careful to read all the details.

If you work for a university, be aware of any employee programs that may allow you to pursue a degree at little or no cost.  These benefits may even be available to family members.

continuing education career growth opportunityAnd don’t forget – there’s a world of in-person and online classes with intriguing subjects that can be taken just for fun.  Most cities and towns offer adult education opportunities.  From salsa dancing to zumba; personal finance and genealogy; advanced software skills and photography – there’s something for everyone.

Invest in yourself and you’ll earn a big payoff in professional recognition, as well as enhancing your personal and professional image.  Lifelong learning is just that – something we all should embrace with no limits!

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