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Is Higher Education Right for Your Career?


A highly educated society is one where there are more opportunities and greater social advancements. It was one of the most important tools to develop society and humanity as a whole, and never before in our history has it been so accessible. Now you don’t need to quit your job to pursue further education. You don’t even need to relocate. You can work remotely at a pace that suits you so that you can develop your career and find your specific niche in life that pays you well and leaves you feeling fulfilled. 

Of course, there are still barriers. Education has never been so expensive, but the work of several online providers in addition to a more international focus means that this very well could change in the future. Other issues with online education are that earning that degree has become easier than ever, which, while it can help you transition to a new career, needs to be chosen carefully. There is an oversaturated job market, and though almost every industry is growing it does mean that even highly professional, educated people can find difficulty in standing out from the job market competition. 


This doesn’t mean that education is not worthwhile. In certain situations, it can be essential; in others it can be just what you need to truly stand out and carve out a whole new path for yourself. 

There are untold opportunities, and that’s what is currently available and currently sought after. You can also pave the way for a new role or new specialization, simply through further education. It doesn’t matter if you specialize further to be the top of your field, or you diversify to offer a truly eclectic set of skills. 

There are possibilities when it comes to customizing and taking control of your career through higher education, and this guide can help you determine whether or not that next degree will be the right move for your career. 

When You Absolutely Need Further Education 

Higher education is, occasionally, a necessity. This does of course depend entirely on your career and goals. 

You Want to Work in a STEM Field 

Though this is not a hard rule, it is a general rule of thumb that to work within the STEM fields you will need a relevant degree. You will be very hard pressed to learn all of the technical skills necessary in a STEM position without formal education, though technically it is possible in certain cases. For example, you may be able to teach yourself how to code without a computer sciences degree, though it can be difficult to self-teach and you will need to provide a developed portfolio in order to make up for your lack of formal education. 

Then there are instances where there is no amount of personal learning and self-learning that will compensate for a degree. Chemistry, biology, and so on all benefit from an advanced learning environment where you have hands-on learning and professional-grade equipment and materials to work with. 

You Want to Work Withing Research or Academics 

If you want to work as a researcher, or within academia in general, then you will often need a degree, or several degrees. Researchers are often hired due to their demonstrated ability to research and develop reasonable conclusions, as well as their advanced expertise in their topic of course. Colleges and Universities often do not hire educators unless they have a PhD, or similar higher qualification (and professional experience). 

Not every educator will have a PhD, yes. Some are hired for their professional experience, but rarely will these non-doctorate-holding staff be tenured or have long-term positions. To secure a lifelong career, especially one that is secure, you will need to either have a doctorate, or be working towards higher education. 

You Need to Take a Certification Exam to Practice 

There are many jobs out there that cannot be practiced without first passing a state exam. These exams of course cannot be simply taken by anyone; first you need to hold a degree from an accredited institution in that field. Nursing, for example, requires you to have a specific degree that has been recognized by a nursing accrediting body before you can take the exam. 

The good news is that when there is a legal requirement it can actually be easier to understand what degrees will help you with your career. With nursing, for example, requirements are fairly straightforward until the MSN degree, but even then this is simply because MSN degrees vary widely depending on how you want to specialize. You can work towards becoming an APRN, for example, or alternatively can work towards becoming a Certified Nursing Leader.

When it does come to career paths that require formal education it is very important that you stay on top of what is necessary. In nursing, for example, it changed from a diploma to an associate degree, to a Bachelor of Science. Many states today have been associate degree holding RNs ten years to earn their BSN. 

There is even discussion of requiring APRNs, who currently only need to hold an MSN, to increase their formal education and earn a doctorate degree in nursing in the future. 

When possible, it is always a good idea to take the accelerated degree option. There is absolutely no reason if you have the opportunity, so if you currently hold a STEM related degree, then you can often fast-track your BSN or even MSN as a non-nurse. All it requires is the right degree from a qualified institution. 

Degree-Holders are the Norm 

Many careers don’t need a degree, and yet it can be impossible to get started without them simply because degree-holders have become the norm. Having a bachelor’s, for example, is often seen as an entry-level requirement even in roles that don’t technically need you to use that knowledge. 

In these instances, choosing a degree that will help throughout your career is a must. This may be a foundation degree, a business degree, or so on. By building on skills that will help you achieve your dream goals you can meet those entry-level requirements and benefit you own personal career better. 

When You Should Consider Further Education 

There are many instances when higher education will be the right move for your career and even more instances where an alternative learning opportunity is going to be important for your career. 

When You Want to Change Careers 

One of the best ways to make a big career change that doesn’t put you right at the bottom of that field is with a degree. This applies to careers that have licensing requirements and those that don’t. 

When you want to change careers it’s always best to look for accelerated degree options. In nursing, for example, there are direct programs that allow you, as a non-nurse, to become a nurse or even an MSN-holding nurse directly. 

There are two options when it comes to these direct degrees. Some allow you to continue working while you learn. These are ideal if you currently earn a healthy amount at your current job, or if you have financial responsibilities that won’t or cannot be covered by a student loan. 

If you do have the opportunity, however, then by far one of the best ways to change careers is with a full-time, dedicated degree. There are options available for a wide variety of careers. In nursing, there are institutions that offer direct programs that can be completed in as little as 20 months. Elmhurst University direct nursing programs, for example, allow non-nurses to dedicate themselves to a nursing degree and prepare themselves for the state exam directly. 

Fast career changes like this can be great to keep you motivated and to make the fastest, most beneficial transition possible. A lot can happen when you slowly stretch out the degree in question, and there is a greater risk of life getting in the way and interrupting your efforts. 

That being said, it all boils down to what suits you and your situation. The important thing when choosing a degree to help you change your career is that it teaches what you need to know and that it is offered in a format that helps you best. 

In most cases, this is going to be via online education. Online education has meant that more people just like you can get started with their second career without having to uproot their lives. You can live in a far more affordable location and benefit from either a 100% online, or in the cases like that nursing degree, in a primarily online environment with either local or minimal in-person requirements. 

When You Want to Be at the Top of Your Field 

If you want to be at the top of your field in a very specific role, then further education is the best way to do it. Generally, this means working your way up to a Ph.D. The good thing about most doctorates is that there is no set education. You specialize and create knowledge while attending relevant courses and being guided by an advisor that most closely deals with the doctorate research you are investigating. 

When You Want to Offer a Unique Set of Skills and Knowledge 

If you want to become a unique professional that offers a diverse, but a targeted set of skills then having multiple degrees in various fields is a great way to stand out as a professional. The ways you can customize your career with adjacent degrees is immeasurable, and the best news is that it leaves you the opportunity to be one-of-a-kind or at least one-of-a-few. 

What to Look for With Your Career-Boosting Higher Education Degree

If you are looking to either progress your career, or change careers, then you will want to ensure that the degree in question has these qualities: 

Online or Primarily Online 

Regardless of whether you want to continue to work or not, many professionals today will actually better suit an online degree than an on-campus one. This is simply due to the responsibilities and roots you have settled. If you own your own home then it doesn’t make sense to move out to attend university on-campus, especially if the university offering the degree, you want is out of state or too far to drive. 

If you have kids, responsibilities, or just don’t want to uproot your life, then an online degree is going to be preferable. Even with degrees that have in-person requirements, like nursing, this is ideal. It is always going to be easier to go for a two-week residency and book a short-term accommodation than make long-term arrangements to handle a one-year, two-year, or potentially even a four-year degree. 

Accredited (If Necessary) 

Not every degree needs to be accredited, but if there is a state exam then always double-check that your degree is accredited by an accrediting body is recognized in your state or country. Without that accreditation, you won’t be able to take the exam, and therefore won’t be able to change or progress your career. 

Career Services 

You already have a huge leg up from other recent graduates as a second-career professional. That being said, there is still no guarantee that you will be able to either find a job or find a job quickly after you graduate. Currently, there is a massive downturn in new job opportunities, and that trend has still continued from the pandemic. Ensuring that the university in question has a good careers service and that you use it, can help you acquire that next great job. 

Is Higher Education Right for Your Career? 

The short answer is that further education is always the best move for your career. Whether that further education is found in a degree, however, depends on your career goals and what career you want to get involved in. Knowing your options can help you save money and choose the most direct path to your goals.