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Going Back to School in a Bad Economy

After a layoff, going back to school is certainly a tempting option. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of being back in the classroom, learning the skills for a new career. Perhaps you’ve read about the highest-paying jobs and have longed to make a career change. Or maybe you’ve found that you need a college degree to be considered for a new position.

Going back to school in the midst of a recession can be a great idea. Earning a college degree can make yourself more valuable in a competitive job market, and once the economy turns around, you’ll be a fresh candidate in a new and growing economy. If you’ve lost your job, you certainly have time to kill during the day, and what better way to spend your day than learning skills for a new career?

Naysayers, however, point out that school costs money, and in an economic downturn, financial aid isn’t always so easy to come by. A new degree doesn’t guarantee a job, and there’s no way to know for sure when a recession will end. There’s always a chance you could finish your degree program and still be faced with a crummy job market.

Whether or not going back to school in a bad economy is a good idea largely depends on the reason for heading back to school in the first place. Many blue collar workers, for example, who have had their jobs for decades, find themselves unqualified for a new job following a layoff. Despite years of experience, such candidates cannot be considered for many positions without a college degree. To rejoin the workforce, a degree is essential.

Many vocational and trade schools offer degree programs that can be completed in a matter of months. If a bachelor’s degree is required, you might be able to earn credit for work experience or even life experience or enroll in an accelerated program, shortening the time it will take to complete a program.

If you’re considering returning to school because you don’t feel as if you have any other options, think carefully. It can be very hard to lose a job and wait for a job offer in a sluggish economy. Enrolling in a degree or certificate program might not be a smart way to bide your time. It’s expensive and educational loans are harder to come by in the midst of the credit crunch. It’s also a time commitment; if a great job offer comes along while you’re enrolled in college, will you be able to commit to both?

But, if you’re ready to dedicate yourself to a degree program and learn skills for a new career, you may find that this is an ideal time. As corporations tighten their budgets, salaries and benefits aren’t as generous as they once were, so while you work your way toward a college degree, those corporations you hope to work for someday will be rebuilding themselves. By the time you finish your degree, the economy should be back in good health, and companies will be going after the best candidates vigorously, once again offering enticing salaries, benefits and maybe even lucrative bonuses.

Regardless of the economy, making the decision to go to school is one that should be made with careful consideration. An education is always a time and financial commitment, but it is also something that reaps great rewards in terms of personal enrichment and great financial rewards.