Is Going Back to School Right for Your Career Change?

Going back to school for a career change can be an intimidating prospect. On one hand, you may be excited at the thought of reigniting passion for your career and moving toward a role that leaves you more fulfilled.

However, you also need to consider the potential risks and rewards of going back to school. For instance, will an advanced education pay off or lead to an unsatisfying or stagnant career?

If you’re wondering if going back to school is worth it for a career change, here are important factors to consider when making an informed decision that aligns with your long-term professional goals.


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How to Evaluate Your Career Change Motivations

As you consider the possibility of a career change, you should first evaluate your primary motivations for doing so. While most professionals return to school to advance their career, many try to meet evolving employer expectations that require advanced education.

If this applies to you, start conducting a thorough and honest assessment of your current job satisfaction and future aspirations. You should think about whether you’re unhappy in your current career, or just no longer a good fit for your role.

Consider asking yourself:

  • Are you feeling unfulfilled in your work?: Perhaps the work you’re doing no longer aligns with your personal values or interests. This misalignment can lead to a desire for a career path that better suits your passion and skills.
  • Have you outgrown your current role?: Sometimes the issue isn’t the career itself, but the specific role or company culture. If you find that you’re not being challenged or there are limited opportunities for advancement, a switch to a similar role in a different setting might be sufficient.
  • Do you feel stuck in your current role?: If your current role or industry isn’t challenging you, it can make you feel stagnant in your career without much room for personal or professional growth.

Considering your answers to these questions, it should illuminate whether a career change is the right next step for you. However, there are other considerations that can help you feel more confident in your decision.

3 Factors To Consider Before Changing Careers

Qualifications and Experience

Have you researched the qualifications and experience needed to enter your desired field? Many careers require multiple degrees and certifications and may even have mandatory internship periods that add time to your education. Fortunately, you might not have to start from scratch.

In some cases, your existing degree could qualify you for positions beyond what you currently hold. Not only that, the skills you acquired from your current role might overlap with the experience needed for your dream job. You can determine this through researching career paths and entry requirements online or trying to connect and network with professionals in the role you want through LinkedIn.

While it’s crucial to understand the transferable skills overlap between your current and dream role, it’s equally important to identify the gaps in your experience that could act as roadblocks. Going back to school is a common solution to these kinds of challenges, but knowing what gaps your degree will fill can help you make the most valid transition in your career.

Job Requirements

Are you going into a job that requires a degree, such as nursing or counseling? Many well-paid occupations like electricians, construction managers, and dental hygienists only require a vocational education or associate’s degree. If you need a specific undergraduate or advanced degree for your dream career, factor in the time it will take to finish your education—this could push out your timelines significantly.

Also, consider whether you can break into a new field via networking or certifications. Do you have a portfolio or another method of demonstrating your competency? The more you can promote your transferable skills, the easier it will be to make the transition.

Cost

Do you have the financial means to cover the cost of going back to school for a career change? While there are many sources of aid, including scholarships, grants, tuition reimbursement, and assistantships, it’s critical to do your research in advance and plan accordingly.

Additionally, it’s worth considering whether you’ll complete your degree on a full-time or part-time basis. Working while attending school requires part-time enrollment which can be a more gradual cost; however, this format can extend your education timeline significantly, depending on the program.

It’s also important to note that Northeastern recognizes the challenges of balancing work, family, and education and offers a variety of flexible learning options tailored for working professionals like you. If you choose to step back from your current job to attend full-time, you’ll need to consider the temporary loss of income during enrollment. In either case, examining your budget, exploring your financial aid options, and developing a back-to-school savings plan can help you make your career aspirations a reality.

Top Industries That Require a Graduate Degree

According to a CareerBuilder survey, 27 percent of employers are recruiting prospective employees with master’s degrees for positions that historically only required four-year degrees, while 37 percent are hiring college grads for positions that had been primarily held by those with high school diplomas. This shift has led to many people considering going back to school for a better position in today’s job market.

Here are some fields that typically require or strongly prefer a graduate education.

Data Science

These days, every business depends on data. Data drives decision-making in nearly every industry, but organizations need this sea of information transformed to reveal actionable insights for its leaders.

Most companies hire data science professionals with advanced degrees, such as a Master of Science in Data Science. While a background in computer science or math is important, nearly every employer expects candidates to build on this foundation with a master’s degree in data science, data analytics, or a related field. Without this advanced degree, you won’t be able to reach your earning potential.

Cybersecurity

As a result of the rising demand for information security analysts in recent years, more and more bachelor level degrees in cybersecurity have emerged. While these degrees may seem like the right path, it is still an industry standard that professionals in this field hold a higher level degree compared to a bachelor’s. In fact, according to a report by Burning Glass Technologies, 84 percent of cybersecurity job postings require at least a bachelor’s degree, while nearly a quarter require at least a master’s degree. Therefore, if this is a role you’re seriously considering, it’s in your best interest to get a master’s degree like a Master’s in Computer Science.

Speech Pathology

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work with people of all ages who have language, communication, or swallowing disorders. This career has an exceptionally high job outlook with an estimated 29 percent projected annual job market growth.

Speech therapists must have a master’s degree and completed clinical fellowship to qualify for a license. Because the field has a narrow educational focus, there are highly specific degree requirements. Unless you work in a closely related field, you may need prerequisite coursework to get accepted into competitive graduate programs.

Electrical Engineering

Are you interested in developing and testing electrical equipment? The electrical engineering industry has diverse career options in industries like manufacturing, aviation, medical, government, research, and telecommunication industries. A bachelor’s degree can help you enter this industry, but it won’t help you advance to higher roles. To do that, you’ll need a Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Benefits of Going Back to School for a Career Change

Even if your industry doesn’t require an advanced education, going to graduate school can offer numerous advantages.

For one, an advanced education will expand your skill set to help ease the transition into a distinct field. Degree programs can also close the gaps in your knowledge by giving you access to industry professionals and hands-on learning experiences.

Graduate degrees increase your salary potential, give you a competitive edge over other applicants, and open more doors to various job opportunities.

One of the biggest benefits of returning to school for career advancement, however, is the networking opportunities it provides. Getting to know professors, classmates, and guest lecturers, who have a foothold in your desired industry, can help you connect with like-minded professionals that could help you in your post-graduation employment search.

Practical Steps to Plan Your Education

Choosing the right program is crucial when planning your education for a career change. You should start by defining clear career goals and assessing your skills to identify gaps. Research the job market in your desired industries to ensure the fields you consider have robust growth prospects.

Next, dive into the specifics of each program’s curriculum to see if it aligns with the skills you need and offers practical, experiential learning opportunities like internships or co-op placements. Consider flexible learning options such as online courses, evening classes, and part-time programs to accommodate your current responsibilities.

Additionally, remember to engage with academic advisors and faculty for deeper insights into how well a program suits your career ambitions, and understand the financial implications of your educational choices. Explore funding options like scholarships and financial aid to ensure you can manage the cost effectively.

Start Your Career Change With Northeastern

If you’re confident in your decision to change careers, but feel overwhelmed, remember that it’s entirely within your reach. In fact, breaking down your journey into manageable steps can help you make this process less intimidating and more achievable.

Consult with a career counselor or college admission counselor if you’re clear about the career path you wish to pursue. They can provide personalized advice tailored to your specific needs and offer insights into the necessary steps for a successful transition.

For additional guidance and practical tips on making a career switch, don’t hesitate to explore our career advice archives. There, you’ll find a wealth of information to help you make informed decisions and move confidently toward a fulfilling new career.