Higher education has always been a solid requirement in a lot of management-level positions​. As such, professionals might find a wall in their career paths if they do not have college diplomas or even a master’s degree. Going back to school after spending a lot of time outside of the academic system can be daunting. Knowing the requirements will give you a solid idea of what schools expect and how you can apply yourself to earning a college degree at last.

College and Applicable Credits

College admission officers must determine your educational level. If you have taken some college courses before and have a high school diploma, ​take inventory of your past credits and course descriptions to see how these might apply now toward earning a degree.​ Professional experience or internships also might count as college credits or transfer credits; talk to college counselors who specialize in adult and returning students about using work experience, skill sets and specialties. They will work to translate these into applicable courses in the curriculum for your college education.


Adult learners often are reluctant to leave their jobs while pursuing a college degree. ​Part-time, evening, or online classes are options for adult learners​ and many degree programs, making it easier to work full-time. Accredited colleges that offer services to adult learners recognize this need and can set up customized course paths toward your degree. However, there are minimum hours – typically 12 to 24 hours per week – that you should commit to studying. Some courses are specifically designed to help students in this regard through distance and online learning.


Workers typically lack eligibility for most student aid such as grants, loans, and financial aid because of their age, independent status, salary levels, or fafsa. However, ​there are specialized student loans for adult learners that different schools and third-party entities offer.​ These loans weigh current salary as a lesser factor and qualitatively consider overall financial need: number of children, a spouse and other personal circumstances. Additionally, a company might be willing to sponsor some of your educational expenses in exchange for a contractual commitment to work there after graduation.

Expert Insight: Academic Learning

Adult students often struggle more than younger college students and experience the subsequent failure rate and low gpas because they have a hard time readjusting to an academic style of learning and coursework. ​Potential adult students should consider taking short preparatory courses to get started and reach out to fellow adult students in similar situations.​ Colleges often have these resources and networks handy.

Popular Programs

Going back to school can be something you choose to do for yourself or it could be a requirement for your job/career. Programs that most employers tend to look for start with general education and move on to things like business administration, information technology, or computer science. ​Even just a few online courses that are college-level can make all the difference for employers​, as most don’t exactly expect a doctoral degree.

Bonus Tips

  • Talk to an academic advisor to plan your best course of action for enrollment
  • An associate’s degree takes less time to complete rather than a bachelor’s degree
  • Watch out for important prerequisites​ for your chosen degree path
  • College Board is a useful tool for applying to colleges and online programs
  • General Education Classes, like English, Math, or History, are the most transferrable courses if you are looking for a low-cost way to a four-year degree. States like Indiana and California design their higher education curriculums to start at low cost community colleges and transfer after two years to a four-year public university.
  • The economics are true, college graduates earn more than high school graduates because the high paying knowledge worker positions have a barrier to entry. Even real estate brokers are required to take a certain number of college credits.
  • Look into College-level Examination Program (CLEP) tests. You can quickly gain credits for what you already know. The money savings is worth proving your knowledge on CLEP exams.

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