With the average cost of a four-year college degree now hovering around $20,000 per year, students of all ages are electing to enroll in online classes that are specifically targeted toward their current career goals. While choosing a blend of online and traditional, campus-based classes may save a student thousands of dollars, the fact remains that education is a major investment and students need to squeeze as much out of their tuition dollars as possible.
Consider the following tips to get the most out of your professional development and higher education courses.
1. Invest in a quality program from a reputable school.
Many schools cater to professional development and offer perks like a career development office, alumni events organized by major, and other long-term networking opportunities. While professionals want to make sure the course is taught by an industry leader, they also need to think of the other perks that are possible when comparing online, traditional or blended degree programs.
Many reputable degrees are now also offered 100% online which can save substantial amounts of money and time over the duration of the degree program. All of these factors should be weighed carefully when investing in any school.
2. Download and store course materials for future use.
Many professors upload exceptional data and resources into their companion websites which can be a great resource for years to come, but you may not have access to the professor’s pages after the course is completed. Taking the time to download the material and properly label it on a USB drive can make it easier to refer to the information in the future.
After the course is over, students who have lost their access to such materials may wish they had done a better job of organizing and saving the materials while the course was active. In addition, networking with like-minded professionals in the course and acquiring contact information may help open other lucrative opportunities later.
3. Understand your commitment.
To get the best investment out of any higher education course, a student has to be thoroughly committed. Planning ahead to schedule time into a work week and family responsibility calendar is important to help you keep up with the course. Likewise, before signing up for a course through a present employer, professionals need to be 100% clear about what the expectations for commitment will be in exchange for the course. Knowing whether the employer will require more hours, months or years of continued involvement, or other commitments of time and energy is important in the decision of whether or not to fund the course individually or not. If there is a hint of a promotion upon completion of the course, it is a good idea to get that commitment in writing in case a manager leaves or changes positions within the company while you are taking the course.
4. Be active in the process.
Joining the local chapter of a professional organization and pursuing the degree with other professionals at the same time can help build positive momentum and help build a local network for career development. This can be beneficial for all parties involved.
Meeting face to face with a seasoned mentor while pursuing additional training could also add a bit of turbo-boost to the course materials. A more senior mentor can help a student drive lines of inquiry that could catapult a professional into a whole new realm of growth potential.
5. Explore your options.
While a career-changer may be seeking courses to bridge the gap between an old set of skills and a newly desired career, others may seek online education solely for the purpose of completing a certification requirement. In recent years, many programs have evolved to meet a multi-faceted set of student needs. While brushing up for a certification test, a student may also find a course or two that may open them up to a niche market or may provide a second set of related skills that could leverage the competitive edge in a job search or promotion scenario.
Education is an investment and there are many excellent choices available for busy professionals and career-changers looking to augment their current career skills. Spending time building an organized strategy for success and being clear about all course and job commitment details is important for saving money and time. While education can be a sizeable investment up front, if done right, the benefits can pay off for decades and provide a richer, more rewarding set of options for professionals dedicated to the process.
About Our Guest Contributor
Ryan Sauer is an innovation and Six Sigma enthusiast. He writes on topics project management, business analysis, and Six Sigma. Through University Alliance, he strives to help professionals achieve their goals such as obtaining a business analyst certification; and provides access to the information and resources they need to achieve them.