7 Things to Consider Before Going Back to School to Further Your Career

By Liz Greene

Despite what you may have heard, a college diploma isn’t the only way to get a decent job. There are multiple professions where you can make serious money without a degree — including working as a web developer, paralegal, or insurance agent. However, many careers that start without the need for formal education can be furthered by adding a degree to your portfolio. When weighing the idea of whether or not you should go back to school, there are a few things you should consider before you make your decision.

going back to school

Evaluate whether a degree will help you achieve your career goals.

The first step is to be absolutely sure that you’re on the career path you want to be on and research whether additional schooling is a necessary to further that path. You don’t want to find yourself several years down the road massively in debt, without the position you wanted.

Know what degree you will need.

If you start without a degree of any kind, a clear place to start would be to obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you’ll want to find out whether a certificate or a degree program is the next step — and which degree is going to offer the best prospects for career betterment.

Decide if the financial investment is worth it.

There’s no doubt about it, going to school is an expensive venture. It’s important to evaluate whether your future salary will allow you to pay off the accumulated educational debt in a reasonable amount of time. Thoroughly research your options before committing to a program. Attending classes at a private university will likely cost substantially more than those offered by a state school or community college. However, depending on the major, the value of getting a degree from a first-rate university might make the additional cost a worthy investment.

Explore financial aid and scholarship opportunities.

Carefully explore your financing options — you might be eligible for special scholarships, grants, or beneficial financing arrangements. Contact your school’s financial aid department for more information, and be sure to check with your employer to see if they offer a tuition reimbursement program.

Look into transfer credits and work experience

Sometime the experience you have can be one of the greatest benefits. If you earned college credits in the past, check the transfer credit policies at the college you’re considering to see if your credits will apply. Some colleges will accept work experience as well. You can easily shorten the amount of time it takes to earn your degree by getting credit for for the knowledge and experience you have already acquired.

Consider an online/nontraditional program.

Deciding where to attend college is an important step in the process. If you work full time and have a family, you’ll want to find out which colleges in your area provide resources to help nontraditional students earn their degrees — full-time versus part-time curriculums, night classes, etc. A great way to get started is to visit a school’s website and search with the keyword “nontraditional student.”

If the program you’re after isn’t available at a nearby university, an online degree program is something you can consider. Most colleges offer full online programs or blended programs that allow you to do a great deal of the coursework online as well as scheduled in-class time to meet with your professor. However, it’s important not to mistake online classes for being easier or less time consuming. Online classes require just as much a discipline and time management skills as traditional classes.

Evaluate whether you’ll be able to balance school, work, and family.

For each hour you spend in class, you are likely to spend an additional two hours studying and completing assignments. If you have a family, a full time job, and a social life, how will you find time for classes and assignments? Are you and your family willing to sacrifice time together? School commitments will mean additional stress on both you and your loved ones. It’s imperative to consider the impact on your life and whether or not you’re willing to shoulder the burden.

Going back to school can be a massive benefit to your career. Gather your data, gauge your finances, talk to your family, and take the time to make the best decision for your particular set of circumstances — it’s the best way to set yourself up for success.

Liz Greene hails from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene or delve deeper into her internal musings at InstantLo


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What Is CBE (Competency-Based Education) And Is It Right For You?

By Monica Wells of http://www.bizdb.co.uk/

Competency-based Education (CBE) is the talk of the town in the American education sector – CBE programs are increasingly popular and academic institutions respond to this growing need for affordable and skill-oriented education by creating online programs and courses that follow the pragmatic approach to learning fostered by CBE.

Before deciding whether you’d like to try this relatively novel learning methodology, you should know what CBE actually is, how it differs from traditional high school or college learning programs, and what are its main advantages in the learning process. Here are some essential things everyone interested in their education should know about CBE.

Is CBE right for you?

Is CBE right for you?

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Landing a Dream Job in Wildlife Tourism (Guest Post)

By Dianna Terry. Dianna is a marine biology PhD candidate working for an ocean conservancy organization.

Kneeling in roadside sand to identify a lion’s pugmark, interpreting a humpback’s tail-slap for a ship full of camera-wielding whale-watchers, collecting a blood sample from an ailing goose in a marshland refuge—a career in the wildlife-tourism industry is often rife with adventure. For anyone who loves animals and wild ecosystems, it can be a deeply fulfilling dream job.

wildlife careers

Do you love animals? Consider a career in wildlife tourism.

Wildlife tourism, though, covers a broad spectrum of specific careers. You could become a safari guide for a travel company, which might be the job that most automatically comes to mind. But you might also be a field researcher, studying populations of wild animals in national parks and other protected lands that attract wildlife-watchers in droves. Maybe you’ll don a doctor’s coat to ensure a population of endangered animals is secure against devastating disease—including those potentially transmitted by humans in ecotourism situations. Perhaps you’ll tackle another aspect of the field by regulating industry practices with an eye toward sustainability through a group such as the International Ecotourism Society.

Zoological parks also often fall under the umbrella, and not only because the animals on display serve as educational ambassadors for their wild brethren: Many leading zoos are also heavily involved in conservation work. The Milwaukee County Zoo, for example, has long tended one of North America’s biggest colonies of captive bonobos, and works to secure wild populations of these rare great apes in equatorial Africa, according to BonoboConservation.com.

Education

Pursuing an academic track in biological sciences gives you a comprehensive, technical understanding of how animals are put together and how they function in relation to their environment. Mastering these fundamentals of physiology and ecology is crucial to many aspects of conservation work.

To some, wildlife biology or zoology might appear “softer” academic routes than physics or chemistry: A trotting wolf, after all, seems easier to understand than the invisible latticework of an organic compound or the complicated equations accounting for the behavior of the universe. But biologists familiarize themselves with many levels of ecological organization and process, from an animal’s physiological requirements to its larger-scale interactions with other species, the seasonal and long-term patterns of its movements in the context of different habitats, and its response and susceptibility to climatic fluctuations.

Beyond a wildlife-biology or ecology program, a degree or certificate in veterinary studies can also usher you into ecotourism work by giving you the tools to diagnose and treat diseases affecting wild or captive animals. For example, the Veterinary Technician Program through PennFoster.edu exposes you to everything from basic tenets of biology and medical mathematics to intensive courses on animal anatomy and nutrition. When assessing potential veterinary curriculums, keep an eye out for accreditation by institutions such as the American Veterinary Medical Association.

An undergraduate degree or certification in wildlife ecology, conservation biology, or some related field may be sufficient to land professional work in wildlife tourism—particularly when combined with plenty of practical experience. However, further education is often mandatory for high-level research and managerial positions, as NationalZoo.si.edu explains.

Interning and Volunteering

As with any line of study, volunteering or interning can be enormously beneficial. Beyond making you more attractive to a hiring committee, it provides a better sense of exactly what kind of position and what area of focus most interests you. Jobs working with charismatic megafauna like elephants and tigers can be highly competitive; volunteering as a data-cruncher or field assistant gives you a taste of the drama while also improving your resume.

Inquire with zoos, wildlife refuges, veterinary clinics, national parks, ecotourism companies, and other organizations to find out about volunteer and internship opportunities. If you’re lucky and committed, you might even land yourself a direct job opportunity out of the deal.


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