Not always, it depends on your goals and your current skill set and educational background. Often, when people are planning a career change they assume that they must return to school in order to launch a career in a new line of work. Sometimes additional training is the best way to change or boost your career; however, there are other times when additional training is an unnecessary expense. It's smart to ask a lot of questions and seek out unbiased information sources before you commit to any retraining.
If you are speaking with counselors or program coordinators at schools, keep in mind that whether the schools are privately or publicly funded, many of the people you come in contact with will have some type of bias. They may have sales quotas to meet and, therefore, are motivated to get you in the door, or perhaps they created the program and simply canít objectively assess the quality of the program.
You'll find different types of bias from different school staff. So, while it is extremely important to speak with school staff to gather information about the program you are considering, part of the task of researching schools and retraining options includes separating facts from biases and opinions.
To read between the lines and do smart research to determine if a program will in fact help you to reach your career goals, here are a few things to research and consider when you are considering options for training for a different career.
Tuition and Fees
Get all of the details regarding the expenses you will incur. Tuition can be just the starting point when it comes to expenses at some schools. Find out:
- How much do books typically cost per semester?
- What other student fees are charged?
- What fees can you opt out of?
- Will you be required to purchase a computer or any other equipment?
Compare tuition and fees for a few similar programs so you'll get a sense of the average tuition fees. Some of the schools that run intensive programs that allow you to graduate quickly have extremely high tuition fees. If you decide to attend this type of school, you'd be wise to ensure that the education you receive will enhance your career and your earning potential before committing to paying these extremely high tuition fees.
Before you commit to a retraining program, you'll want some certainty that you will be able to successfully complete the program. Find out:
- What percentage of students who start the program actually graduate from the program?
- If the graduation rate is low, try to find out why. Is there a specific required course that a lot of students struggle with? If so, do you feel you'd be able to manage that course?
- Does the school provide support, such as peer tutors, to help you though those challenging courses?
Some of this information may be available though published graduate statistics. You can also get the information you need be contacting the program director for the program you are considering.
While researching training options for my clients (and myself), I've spoken with many program coordinators. Although it can sometimes be a bit challenging to reach the program coordinators, those conversations have always provided extremely valuable information for me. It's well worth making the effort to speak with these people before you commit to a training program.
No one wants to invest time and money in a retraining only to discover that there's no market for your skills. Find out:
- What percentage of the graduating class are working?
- Are they working full time or part time?
- Are they working in their field or in unrelated jobs?
- What is the median income for the most recent graduating class?
- Are they working locally or is the local labor market saturated, and graduates need to look out of town to find work?
Depending upon the type of school you are considering and the city you live in, the school may be required to collect and make these kinds of graduate statistics available to the general public. When you speak with school administrators, ask them to provide you with a copy of their grad stats. If they can't provide you with this information, ask the program coordinator these questions about employment rates.
Student Loan Default Rates
Here's another way to assess whether the people in the graduating class of any program have found good jobs. Find the student loan default rates for the program you are considering (again, some schools are required to make this information available to the general public as part of their graduate statistics). If there is a high loan default rate, that should be a warning sign to you that students from this program may not be finding good jobs, since they can't afford to repay their student loans.
Speak to People in the Field Who are Not Involved with the School
School administrators are generally biased; they want you in their programs, paying your tuition dollars, so it's important to find unbiased opinions about training programs. Find people who do the type of work you'd like to do once you graduate, and ask them about the programs you are considering.
This kind of information gathering, or informational interviewing, (more tips on this in the related links below) can save you thousands of dollars in tuition that you might have spent on programs that are not valued by employers. It's crucial that you do not skip this step when researching school programs because it's really the best way to get good, unbiased information about employers' expectations in your new field and the quality of related training programs.
The methods of program delivery vary widely from school to school. To ensure the program you are considering is a good fit with your learning style and needs, ask:
- How large are the classes?
- How is the course taught? Some programs are taught with a teacher instructing the class, other schools provide you with a manual, you work at your own pace and the teacher is available if you have questions.
Determine how courses are taught so that you can ensure you will be in a learning environment that is a good fit with your own learning style and needs.
Other details to consider are:
- When are the admission deadlines?
- What are the requirements for admission?
- Are there different program delivery options? For example, are courses offered in class, online or through distance education?
Lifelong learning and developing your skills is important part of career management, however, it's wise to do some good research before you commit to a school program to ensure that it is, in fact, the answer to your career goals and needs.
Be sure to ask plenty of questions before you commit to training for a different career. Talk to plenty of people, not just people who are involved with the school. Retraining can be a smart investment in your career if you make good choices about the program you take. The research you do before you commit to a training program will help you to make smart choices that will help you move to the next phase in your career.
Monster Learning is a good starting point for researching schools. You can request free information from plenty of schools at their site:
Find Degree Programs in Your Area - Tap into the Experts
Careers and Education is another source for researching schools. You'll find information to research programs and schools and request information here:
Request more Information on CareersandEducation