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Career Change Q and A: Questions to Answer before You Go Back to College

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Say the words “college student” and recent high school grads frolicking on the quad usually come to mind. Greek life, keg parties and underage drinking may still be present on many college campuses, but statistics claim that less than one-third of today’s college students are full-time students who are dependent on their parents.

Part-time college students and adult learners are becoming the norm. More young adults are taking fewer classes per semester and working their way through school and “grownups” with children of their own are signing up for college classes in hopes of completing that degree they never finished or making a career change.

Is It Time for a New Career?

You’re not alone if you’re thinking about a career change that requires school or training. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track career change data, but one study found that adults held an average of 10.8 jobs between the ages of 18 and 42. Deciding to go back to college mid-career isn’t always an easy choice, but it might be a worthwhile one.

Here are seven questions to ask yourself while you think about the possibility.

1. Why do I want a career change?

You’re most likely unhappy with your current situation if you’re thinking about changing careers. Perhaps the pay is low, the hours are long, and the stress is starting to take its toll on you. But are you are unhappy with your current field or industry as a whole, or just your current employer? You might be happier performing the same or a similar job at a different place. If that is not the case, a career change might be right for you.

2. What career am I considering?

If you’ve read this far, there’s a good chance you already have a different job or industry in mind. What is it and why? Pay rate is important to most people, but other factors play a role, too. Do you dream about becoming a nurse because your cousin is a nurse and really seems to like it? Or are you thinking about entering the medical field because you are empathetic, enjoy helping others, and know that there is plenty of room for growth and advancement?

3. What is the entry level salary and earning potential?

As stated above, money isn’t everything, but it’s pretty darn important. You will need to be able to support yourself or contribute to your family’s earnings. Do a bit of research and find out how much the job you think you want pays. Averages and statistics posted online aren’t necessarily how much you would most definitely get, but they give you a ballpark figure. So consider average starting salary as well as potential salary down the road. Are you willing to take a pay cut from what you’re making now to find a job you’re happier performing?

4. What do I need to do before I can transition into this field?

Switching from one field to another often—but not always—requires training or schooling. Will you have to go back to college for a new degree? Will you have to pass certification or licensing exams? How long will this take?

5. How can I fit this into my schedule?

If you must work while preparing for your new career path, as most adults do, are night or weekend programs available? Can you realistically fit school into your schedule along with your current workday and family obligations?

6. Who can I talk to?

Going to college or doing a career change can be tough. Speak with several people during your decision making process. Ask your friends and relatives what they like and dislike about their jobs. Talk to people currently working in that field as well as people who were dissatisfied and left the field for various reasons.

7. Who will be my support system?

Many career changers are adults with spouses or partners and children and the transition can be stressful for everyone involved, not just you! Will your family support you on this? If the answer is no, there’s a chance you could wind up feeling stressed and quitting, which isn’t your intention.

If you’re unhappy at work, your personal life can also begin to suffer. These are just a few of the many things to consider when thinking about a new job in a new field.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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