By Brenda Johnson, Work, Careers and Job @40+
There are many choices and decisions for Boomers who decide to return to school, whether their goal is to update skills for a current job, prepare for a new career or pursue personal fulfilment. Boomers can choose between taking courses in a traditional classroom setting or one night a week, pursuing degrees offered completely online or enrolling in hybrid programs that require low-residency. Depending on a Boomer’s goal, continuing education could mean completing a certificate program at a community college, earning a career designation through a professional organization or learning a foreign language before a vacation.
“Going back to school is not something adult students should pursue on a whim,” advises Michael Florence, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) degree from Indiana Wesleyan University and then pursued a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree to advance his career. Florence says he would “do it again in a heartbeat” and said a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is still not out of the question.
Returning to a classroom while working and maintaining family responsibilities requires time management and money. Patti Medvescek discovered this while pursuing a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from Indiana University as an adult.
“We had study groups and many of the younger classmates wouldn’t consider meeting on the weekend,” explained Medvescek. If she were to attend school again, Medvescek would opt for online classes. “Time is money and online you don’t have to spend your time driving to and from school and parking,” says Medvescek.
A schools.com survey confirmed that 84 percent of students in their 50s chose online or hybrid programs.
When adults return to school for reasons other than personal fulfilment, money is often a consideration. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, 54 percent of companies offer undergraduate tuition reimbursement with an average maximum reimbursement of $4,591 annually. Tuition reimbursement is an employee benefit companies are not obligated to offer, and program specifics vary. It is important to understand your organization’s tuition reimbursement policy and talk to others who have used it before embarking on a program. As an experienced worker, there are other options besides a four-year degree or master’s program. Ivy Tech offers a College for Working Adults option providing students an associate degree in two years.
The statewide community college also offers certificate programs. Lori Harris earned an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan as a working adult. Her advice to Boomers is to manage their expectations. “Pursuing an advanced degree is not instantly going to give you a promotion, but it will give you a seat at the table,” says Harris. She joined the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) and credits their programs and networking with helping her navigate corporate America.
Geneva Tellis-Taylor completed a University of Indianapolis MBA program attending classes with her co-workers. “They were almost all at least 10-15 years younger. However, in the end it was a great balance of perspectives with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers taking classes together. She credits having a great support system at home and at work for helping her grades and confidence soar. It is never too late to return to school.