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Continuing Education: The Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Making a Decision
Published
2014, Q3 (June 05, 2014)
By Laura Dragonette, Communications Manager

Laura Dragonette
Laura Dragonette
There are many reasons to further your education. You may have just graduated from college and are wondering, "what's next?" The career path laid out before you is ambiguous and you think that furthering your education will allow you to discover the field that's right for you. Perhaps you're considering a career change. You're sick of your current job and want to earn a certificate to give you an edge in the new job search. Maybe your current job wants you to have that shiny plaque hanging behind your desk to display to customers, and they're willing to fund the program. Or it might just be something you want to do for you. Whatever your reason, considering the typical expenses and dedication required for most grad programs or continuing education courses, you should do your homework and make sure the program is right for you before sending that tuition check.

This topic hits close to home, as I'm about to embark on a summer adventure with Columbia's Publishing Course (CPC) in New York City. It's intimidating, because a course like this is always a risk. You have to assess the potential costs and benefits of enrolling.

Is this really what you want to do?

Take a step back and analyze this question carefully, because it's not always as simple as you think. If you're looking for a quick fix or are choosing this new career on a whim, think again. Sure, education gives you a firmer grasp on your ideal career, but you should think carefully before enrolling in a grad program if you're still on the fence about the careers it will open up to you. It's hard to know for sure before you try it, but it's important to do your research before signing up. What does the daily life of someone in that profession entail? Seek out someone that currently works in the field for an informational interview to learn more about his or her lifestyle. Could you see yourself enjoying that long-term? I can imagine few things worse than completing an expensive master's or certificate program just to realize it's not what you want to do with your life.

Cost

As much as you may want to follow your heart, you also have to be realistic. Can you actually afford to enroll in this program right now? Many programs offer funding, but some don't, and you may have to consider a private loan. Is the course still going to be an option in six months or a year? If it's going to be financially straining right now, you could take the time to save more money before starting the course.

Job prospects

Will the program be financially worth it? Will the career path you'll follow after graduation allow you to earn enough money to offset the cost of the program and justify the degree? How much better off will you be in your field than with the degree(s) you have now? There are many graduate programs that, in my opinion, are absolutely not worth racking up another few years' worth of student loans, because the job prospects are no better than with a simple undergraduate degree.

Doing what you love is so important, but if you're not realistic about your expectations, you'll end up with a rude awakening. If you ask yourself these questions (and more, depending on the program), you'll know exactly what to expect. I've decided that CPC is the right course for me, and I couldn't be more excited. If it's something you love, do everything you can to secure a career in the field. Just be aware of and prepared for the potential difficulties that await you after graduation.


Laura can be reached at communications at stc-carolina dot org. End of article.


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