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Out on the Pavement? Could be Good Time to Hit the Books

The economy is in a tailspin. Every day, it seems, more employers in more industries announce massive layoffs. If you are fearful of losing your job in this recession or if you already have, it may be a good time to consider going back to school to earn an advanced degree in your field or study for a new career.

The rule-of-thumb has always been the more education you have, the less likely you are to be unemployed, and the more you can earn over the life of your career. In this down economy, the return on your investment in further education could be shorter than in good times.

Weather the Storm by Returning to School
This is a particularly good recession to return to school because most experts are predicting it may take the economy two or more years to recover–enough time for you to complete a number of different degree programs, including some master’s degrees. By the time you get that diploma in hand, employers could be hiring again and looking for someone with your newly acquired, up-to-date skills.

You Can Find Ways to Finance Your Return to the Classroom
Financing your studies may not be as hard as you fear. If you were laid off and received a lump sum severance, you could put that money toward tuition. Many community colleges are waiving tuition for those who recently were laid off. Also, the economic stimulus package that President Obama is pushing through Congress would increase spending for financial aid making it easier to obtain. Taking courses online can also save commuting time and expense. In the end, be sure to take advantage of any grants and scholarships for which you are eligible.

Which Direction to Follow?
Do you want to continue in the same field that you have been working in or is this a good time to start over in a new direction? The answer depends on several factors: how happy were you in your job and how much room for advancement is there in that industry? Is your chosen profession one that has a future or is it in decline?

If you are thinking about studying for a job in a new field, make sure it is one that can survive the economic downturn. Industries expected to get through the recession include:
Health Care
Public Safety

While there should be numerous career opportunities, make sure you conduct due diligence about which direction you want to head.

Taking the Next Steps
Be realistic about which degree and career field you wish to pursue. As you decide which path to follow, consider the following:

Join professional associations. Learn everything there is to know about your prospective field
Conduct research. Study market and industry trends to find out which industries are expected to remain strong in the coming years
Check your finances. Returning to school can be an expensive proposition–understanding where you stand financially can help you make a practical decision about your future
Write down your career goals. Knowing where you want to go professionally can help you create an effective plan for reaching your goals

Returning to school to complete a degree or finish a new degree can be a difficult decision to make. Become informed as possible about your career goals, degree you wish to pursue, and the amount of time it will take you to finish your degree. By being prepared, you should be able to make a focused decision about your future career path.

HR World: Top 25 Careers to Pursue in a Recession
New York Times: A Recession May Be a Time to Go Back to School
Philadelphia Inquirer: Colleges Rise to Meet the Crisis


Publish date: January 29, 2009