Why Is Education So Important For Growing At Work?
Education is the key for career progression.
Whether you’re fresh out of college and are pursuing your dream job, are middle-aged and deciding to make a career change or are simply looking to switch up the mundane routine of your life, congratulations! You are on your way to finding out what it is that you really want to do and are thinking about ways to achieve it. Although it can be scary and intimidating to consider starting from the bottom and working your way up in a fresh company, consider ways that you can advance yourself before even applying for your first job. Although experience speaks for itself in many real-life workplaces, the power of formal education in your field can help set you apart from every other applicant in the pool.
Why Does It Matter?
Imagine this scenario: You are suffering from a migraine, so you decide to go see a medical professional. You could see the general practitioner, who knows a little bit about everything but mostly treats coughs and colds, or you could go to a doctor who specializes in migraine treatment and makes the horrible headaches their life’s work. Who are you more likely to see when you’re in a predicament?
The same rule applies to people who are applying for a job. You can say that you’re incredibly talented and well-educated in your field all you want on your resume, but unless you have the piece of paper to back you up then you likely won’t get very far. Do you think that you have a better chance of getting a project management job than the other applicant who has their PMP certificate? By going the extra mile and showing employers that you are driven enough to spend time, money and energy on your career, you are proving that you mean business.
What’s The Difference Between A Degree and Certification?
A college degree is a two to four-year diploma that offers a full overview of the subject matter you are studying. You earn one through an accredited college or university by taking the classes and completing enough credits to qualify for a degree in your field, which states you have completed your time there. Toss that cap and toast your friends — you’ve done it!
A certification is not exactly the same thing, though you still have to take classes and training to prove that you’ve studied the subject matter. Certifications are earned in many different ways: online, through professional development classes and even community or technical colleges. They can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years, but it really depends on what you’re studying.
Which Is Right For Me?
Whichever path you decide to take is entirely up to you. Understand the pros and cons of both and be sure to factor in the amount of time it will take, how much you can afford to spend and whether or not you are able to travel for classes. You might even ask your current employer what kinds of professional development are offered and see if you can work and go to school at the same time.
Even if you’re on the fence, research your area and see what is offered. Some considerations that you might take before deciding:
- The average amount of college debt for four-year graduates in 2018 was $29,800, but the average cost of an IT certification is usually anywhere between $200 and $1,000.
- Students with a four-year degree generally are 3.5 times less likely to suffer poverty than those with a high school diploma alone.
- Employers are impressed with certifications and college degrees — just make sure that you don’t apply for jobs that strictly list BA only if you don’t have one; your application will probably be tossed out.
Will a Degree or Certification Instantly Land Me a Job?
If only life were so certain! Although it’s important and highly beneficial to obtain a degree or certification for professional and personal reasons, it doesn’t always mean that you will have employers throwing themselves at your feet to join their company. Remember, there are plenty of other aspects that you need to think of when you apply in another field:
- Do I have the right skills to join a team like this? For example, if client-facing confrontations and public speaking are two main aspects of the job, are you comfortable and qualified to do that?
- Can I handle what is required of me? Long nights, overtime and heavy travel don’t work for everyone. What demands of the career you’re considering are a reality, and is it in your power to meet those demands?
- Would I be happy here? It sounds so basic, but it’s really something that you should think about before applying for a job at another company. What’s the culture like, and would you fit in there? Would you be comfortable with a new structure and a new environment?
Don’t be deceived: Higher education is definitely a factor when employers are going over resumes, but don’t assume that you will be hired on the spot for having one. 34% of American adults have a four-year degree, so you’re competing with a whole one-third of the country.
What Are Some Options For Me?
If you are interested in furthering your education in some form or another, the best thing you can do after you decide what career you want to pursue is to start researching what kind of prerequisites are required. From there, you will have a better idea of which route to take.
Community college. Even if you already have a four-year degree, don’t discount community colleges. There are so many great options for working adults and continuing education classes that you might find something you didn’t even know you were interested in. Oftentimes these colleges will also offer various certification courses as well, so you’ve got options.
Vocational and technical schools. Learning hands-on, real-world skills is something that interviewees like seeing. Check out what kinds of courses are offered at your local vo-tech school; not only are two and four-year degrees no uncommon, but professional certifications like application developing and computer science can be obtained as well.
Check your workplace. Even if you’re planning of leaving eventually, staying for free or discounted education might be worth it. Check with HR and ask whether your place of business will cover some or all of your tuition expenses, or if there is some kind of deal that they offer if you’re willing to work and go to school at the same time. You might be surprised.
Deciding to take another career path is not an easy decision. You will be working for a long, long time so it’s the best idea to pick something that you love doing. Before up and leaving your job in a glorious huff, have a backup plan. How can you better yourself for the next job you take, and how can you ensure that you are qualified to start sending applications to the companies that you really want to be working for? Education takes you places, don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. Investing in your future is a smart idea — even you end up being the investment. You’re worth it!