Do you love your job but know that advancing your degree will help you advance your career as well? If so, you may be seriously considering the benefits of going back to school. However, you may also be wondering if you should take a hiatus from work while pursuing that degree.
For many people, that’s simply not an option. In fact, there are several reasons why you just might want to stay on the job while advancing your degree:
1. The Need for an Income
The reality is that all but a very few students can afford the cost of college without some kind of income. This would especially be the case if you are out there working and supporting yourself or a family. There is no way to survive in a world where the cost of living keeps rising without that regular paycheck coming in, so leaving your job isn’t realistic. How much debt can you accrue before bringing you to the point of bankruptcy?
If you are serious about getting a graduate degree, for example, and need to sustain an income, it makes sense to stay on the job while you advance your degree. There’s probably no way around it.
2. You Love Your Work
For the sake of example, let’s look at nursing as a career. Nurses encounter some of the most stressful situations anyone in today’s workforce can be faced with. They are often dealing with patients who are terminally ill, and let’s not forget those who are ill-tempered when suffering an injury or illness. Their entire day is focused on ensuring their patients are well cared for and it is their duty to observe and chart any potentially life-threatening events.
Nursing carries a high level of stress, so why do they stay on the job? The answer is quite simple really. They love what they do! At the end of the day, it’s rewarding to know that they’ve made someone’s life that much better.
3. Options for Accelerated Degrees
For a moment, let’s continue looking at the nursing career mentioned above. Many RNs working today have begun their careers with just a two-year degree such as an ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) or an ASN (Associate of Science in Nursing). The prospect of studying an additional two years for a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) prior to acceptance in grad school for an MSN is daunting enough to make them re-think going back to school.
Fortunately, the Internet has made it possible to study online for the next level degree without an interruption in work. Even better than that are schools like Spring Arbor University that offer a bridge MSN program in which RNs can earn their BSN along the way to their MSN (Master of Science in Nursing). From start to finish it may take no longer than it would to stop at a BSN. When you need to maintain an income while advancing your degree, this is the perfect solution – no time lost!
4. Real-Time Experience
Both educators and students find that continuing to work in your field while advancing your degree offers a whole new level of education. As you learn new concepts and skills, you will immediately be able to bring them to your job. Instead of waiting until you finish school, you can begin applying what you’ve learned in real-time. How many times have you had to rack your brain to remember something that was covered in a class several years ago?
One of the best aspects of studying for an advanced degree in a career you are currently working at is in giving you the ability to practice in real-time what you are learning in class. Not only does this give you a greater understanding of what you are learning but it also improves your job performance at the very same time. It never hurts to bring new research, data, and practices to your work.
5. Accelerated Advancement in Your Career
Many employers base salary, at least partially, on your level of education. It is statistically proven that base rates of pay are most often established on a graduated scale by level of degree. Therefore, the going salary for that nurse mentioned above with an ADN will be significantly lower than the rate of pay for a nurse holding a Master of Science in Nursing, and rightfully so.
It stands to reason because the higher the degree you hold, the greater your knowledge and proficiency will be. Now then, this isn’t always written in stone. Most employers perform an annual review in which employees are rated on the previous year’s performance. When it is substantiated that you are working toward an advanced degree and you have brought key practices and principles to your job, many employers will base raises on that as well.
6. Availability of Employee Benefits
In today’s highly competitive workforce many, if not most, employers offer a range of employee benefits. One of the most common perks is employer-matched funding for continued education. Referring once again to that nurse mentioned above, this is a key employee benefit most hospitals offer. In fact, it is standard procedure based on the kind of work nurses are expected to do.
Bear in mind that science and technology are advancing by the day so that a nurse who is currently studying those advancements can bring them to the job. Patient care is improved and often the cost of treatment is reduced based on the knowledge nurses bring to a healthcare institution. What employer wouldn’t appreciate ways to improve client (patient) satisfaction while improving their company’s bottom line?
7. Maintaining Momentum in Your Career
Another of the major benefits of advancing your degree while continuing to work is that you won’t lose momentum in your career. Yes, it may be possible to step back into a job after taking a leave to go to school, but there will also be a number of changes you will need to get acclimated with. Even when stepping back into a position at the very same place of employment, you can expect changes to have occurred during your absence.
Perhaps new administrators or directors were named and maybe even job descriptions have been rewritten. You may encounter new faces along with new ways of doing things and this can significantly slow down your momentum on the job. Having the ability to advance your education online while continuing to hold down that job you love so much is a major benefit when you are seeking to climb the professional ladder.
8. No Need to Change Hats
One of the major complaints many students have when returning to school after working years on a job is in finding that balance between the mindset of a student and that of a worker. On the job, you are expected to know your craft while in class you are expected to learn. It isn’t usually difficult to bring what you’ve learned on the job to a class, but when stepping back into a professional role, it’s often hard to exude a level of expertise expected of you.
In class, you are always seeking answers to the unknown while on the job you are expected to be the one who knows. Maintaining that level of professionalism is one of the major reasons to stay on the job while advancing your degree. You won’t need to change hats from professional to student and back again when that degree is obtained. This also helps you maintain momentum in your career because your mindset will remain the same throughout.
9. Avoiding the Most Common Stressors
The very first reason mentioned above was in relation to financial woes often created when taking a break from work to go back to school. This can be one of the biggest stressors students encounter and one that will be mitigated if you keep that money coming in. However, there are other stressors as well. Some people worry about being passed by on that promotion they desire because a coworker has a higher degree. Others worry about getting stuck in a groove because they are only qualified to handle certain tasks.
Being able to advance your degree while maintaining job momentum can relieve a great deal of stress in the course of your everyday life. You can maintain the status quo of your finances while working to improve your career.
If you are weighing the pros and cons of returning to school, remember that you don’t have to forego one for the other. It is possible to study for a graduate degree while working a full-time job. Most degrees are now offered online so you really don’t have to give up that 9 to 5. Yes, you may need to cut back hours or take a lighter course load each semester, but it is the best option for those who simply can’t, or don’t want to, leave the job they love so well.
*Photos by George Milton