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An Online Odyssey: Heading Back to School in Mid-Life

shutterstock_2096889More adults are extending their working lives, putting off retirement, and enrolling in online college degree programs to lengthen or change their careers. Find out more about this trend, and check out an interview with an exemplar of the odyssey years.

Social scientists have discovered that Americans are delaying retirement and extending their working lives. Years of the odyssey through adulthood and passage beyond midlife are widening, according to New York Times writer David Brooks. We’re putting off marriage and those who are in their middle years are heading back to college to prepare for new careers. Ongoing education can beef up skills for the third act of your life.

In his 40s, high-tech marketing whiz Mark Carlos moved back to his hometown, Sacramento, fleeing the cost-of-living pressures of Silicon Valley. By the time he reached age 50, however, he discovered his Fortune 500 experience and bachelor’s degree weren’t getting him interviews with executive-level recruiters.

Following his graduation from an online MBA degree program in 2005, Carlos saw an immediate increase in contacts initiated by recruiters. Today he is President of MC Solutions, a technology and management consulting firm. He explains how he went on to earn an online MBA degree and reap the benefits.

Q: Why did you choose an online degree program?

A: I did not need a school with a major reputation, but needed one which would factor in my real-world experiences to minimize the quantity of courses, time, and tests necessary to complete the curriculum. Online programs allowed for most courses to be completed around my day job, family and social commitments.

Q: How did your degree program match your career requirements or skill needs, and which classes did you complete?

A: My expectations were met completely. I was told up-front the quantity of online reading and research required, as well as the quantity of correspondence, interactive chat, homework and paper submissions. I took courses in Business Management Principles, Business Communications, Business Organizational Strategies and Principles, Human Resources Administration, Information Technologies, Project Management Principles, Business Process Engineering and Re-Engineering, Business Analytics and Metrics, Business Ethics and Regulatory Compliance.

Q: How did you pay for your education?

A: I paid a 40 percent up-front fee, two 25 percent interim payments based on course completion and selection, and 10 percent on graduation. All by personal credit card. This was one of the payment options, and the one that worked best for my personal situation.

Q: What was the outcome?

A: Many of the exercises, homework, and papers submitted were based on actual real-world and real-time experiences I was living concurrently on my job. In retrospect, I was able to accelerate the timeline through experience with the current job realities. My maturity towards the importance of education was probably the single-greatest factor in my attitude and perseverance–which was completely lacking in my youth.

Q: How do your MBA skills serve you today?

A: My new focus for clients has been towards ownership, leadership and management, creating new foundations in mindset and strategies, resulting in improved use of technology, with changes in business processes being viewed as an investment in the future, and not a real-time required cost. I’d recommend going back to school no matter how old you are. It works!

Publish date: August 14, 2009