Going back to school is more than just tacking another diploma on the wall. Continuing education allows opportunities for networking, new credentials and certifications, and expanded opportunities at your current job. Adults benefit, also, from the sense of intrigue they gain from deepening their knowledge of a field. This can help avoid burnout, re-energize your passion for your job, and position you to ask for a promotion or a raise.
Adult education can open up new avenues of career opportunity. For example, learning a language or studying computer systems gives an adult professional the advantage of taking on new roles and responsibilities at work. According to "US News," more adults are returning to school for career advancement, whether to finish a high school diploma or attain a higher college degree online or on campus. Between 1995 and 2005, according to Straighter Line, adult re-entry into education jumped more than 27 percent. While some companies offer incentives for increasing education, some adults return to school on their own with hopes that they can turn new learning into better positions within their companies. If they can't, their new educational experiences make their resumes stronger when they go back to the job market.
Continuing education allows adults to meet other like-minded individuals and make new contacts in and out of their fields. While working in an office for years may limit the new social interactions you make, taking online or in-person classes at a local community college or technical training center helps you expand your network and make contacts with professionals in other industries. These contacts become vital during layoffs, business-to-business deals, and community projects that involve more than one industry such as fundraisers, tournaments and trade shows.
Most adults change jobs several times in their careers, and many change fields completely. Oregon State University cites a few common reasons, including a tough economy, layoffs, stress or a tapering of job fulfillment in a particular role. Continuing your education is crucial for a career change, whether you do it directly through a postsecondary school or not. Some adults can enter on-the-job training to change careers, but this often means starting at entry level. If you want to bridge your experience into a new field, adult education might be the key. For example, if you've taught English at a college for eight years but decide you want to work in marketing, you might already have a lot of the necessary skills, including communication, writing skills and public presentation. But you probably lack background knowledge in marketing principles, statistics and financial elements of marketing. So taking core courses in these areas may help you land a job in marketing without a salary cut.
Many think of higher education solely as a mechanism for landing better jobs, but that's only part of the picture. Many adults return to college for personal enrichment. For example, the Lifelong Learning program at Florida Atlantic University gives adults the opportunity to study a topic for several months solely for intellectual curiosity. These opportunities don't lead to a degree or certificate, usually, but they do allow adults to socialize and meet others with similar interests. Whether you're passionate about art criticism or statistics, you can probably find a continuing education or lifelong learning course in your area that allows non-degree-seeking adults to enroll, learn and enjoy.
Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.