Many people assume that their education is over once they have earned a degree and embarked on a career path. On the contrary, opportunities for advancement can require that the candidate returns to school for additional education. Many certifications and licenses also require a certain number of continuing education credit hours each year for the person to maintain their credentials. Or, perhaps you've decided to "switch gears" and want to embark on a new career path. Whatever the reason, there are a few things to consider before embarking on this new educational journey.
The Cost of Continuing Education
If you have entered into a career that demands continuing your education over time, you will need to plan ahead from a financial perspective. Start to set aside a small amount of money each week or month in an account that is specifically earmarked for your educational needs. This will allow you to pay a large portion of the cost without having to incur added debt through the use of student loans or other means. Also talk to your employer, as many employers who require continuing education may cover all or part of the cost.
Make Sure You're Financially Prepared
Whether you plan on going back to school full-time or part-time, your budget will likely have to be adjusted to cover the associated expenses. If necessary, work with your financial advisor to rework your budget and find additional ways to save money. If you need to get a student loan, try to avoid privately held notes. They have a higher interest rate and aren't as forgiving as federal student loan programs. Additionally, most private loans start accruing interest while you are still in school, which can add up to a much larger principal once you finish your program and are ready to start paying the loan back. Getting a federally funded student loan will help you maintain your credit, and you won't be required to make any payments until after you've graduated.
Balancing Work and School
After you've made the decision to go back to school, your next decision is whether or not to keep working once classes start. Many students are able to juggle both work and school. But if you're unsure of your ability to handle both simultaneously, maybe start off with only one or two courses a semester. This will give you an idea of how much time you will need to devote to school while maintaining work efficiency. If you need to take time away from work to complete your courses, you can discuss budgeting options with your financial advisor.
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