The importance of continued education in the fast-paced world we live in is evident to many of us. No matter the degree you currently hold, chances are that you may want to go back to school to boost your skillset and advance your career at some point. After working for a few years, some people realize that their current path is not appealing to them anymore and go back to school to change careers. However, regardless of your intentions, going back to school to earn yet another degree can seem daunting, especially if you have a family to support financially and have to give up a secure job while in school. In this article, Kevin Dalby, UT Austin professor, shares his tips on motivating yourself to go back to school to pursue higher education.
Tip #1. Find your “why.”
Many people decide to pursue higher education simply because they want to earn more and move up the ladder faster. Although you are more likely to receive a higher salary if you get a degree, this shouldn’t be the only factor that motivates you to go back to school. Instead of chasing money, think about your personal “why” and how it aligns with your values. Furthering your education comes with many sacrifices, so it’s vital to weigh all of your options and choose a path that fits your personal and professional goals.
Tip #2. Consider a career switch.
If you are considering going back to school, chances are you may not be happy with your current industry or position. However, earning an advanced degree may allow you to pivot your career path and learn additional skills about the new field you are looking to enter. Some programs even include hands-on experience that will help you feel more comfortable performing on-the-job tasks at your future workplace.
Tip #3. Move into a leadership role.
On the other hand, you may be passionate about your job and want to further your education to transition into management. In this case, pursuing an advanced degree will help you get more visibility, make valuable connections and reach executive positions. Networking with other professionals in your program may provide additional employment and business opportunities, as you will be surrounded by like-minded people who prioritize their professional and personal development. Depending on the field you are in, you may also be required by law to hold a particular degree before you can get a promotion or leadership role.
Tip #4. Develop a specialization.
Your undergraduate degree may have given you an idea of the general area you want to pursue; now, it may be a time to choose the specialized skills you wish to pursue in-depth. Earning an advanced degree can help you gain additional skills making you more marketable. Many companies are willing to pay considerable amounts of money for specialized knowledge. First, however, make sure you research the job market because specialization may make it more challenging to find the roles you deserve. The best way to go about this is to check if your employer would cover a portion of the tuition to help you advance in the field with a long-term plan of moving you up the ranks at your current company.
Tip #5. Become a researcher.
After years of working in your field, you may decide to get an advanced degree to become a researcher. Then, as an academic research scientist, you can work at a university as a professor, teaching students on some days and conducting research the rest of the time. Of course, becoming a researcher is not for everyone; however, if your “why” includes making a contribution to humanity and making a difference in the world, it may be a path for you.
Earning an advanced degree is a big step requiring financial and time commitment. So, before you make a move, make sure you’ve weighed your options and that you have the right motivations. After all, is said and done, you will be glad you got your higher degree and feel even more fulfilled regarding your career.
About Kevin Dalby
Dr. Kevin Dalby is a UT Austin professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry, currently working on cancer drug discovery. At the College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas, he examines the mechanisms of nature and cancer to develop new treatments and teaching and motivating students to conduct research. Dalby is optimistic about the future of cancer treatments.