Higher Education: An Investment That Pays Off

If you have a steady job and find yourself with extra time on your hands, or if you have a part-time job and are actively looking for more work, now is the perfect opportunity to review your job goals, assess where you are on your road to success, and possibly enroll in a higher education program.

Are you where you thought you’d be or where you want to be? Is there more you can do to advance your progress and improve your odds for success? In these days of a difficult economy complicated by ever-mounting stress levels, it’s easy to overlook options to take a few courses or perhaps even go in an entirely new direction. But regardless of your job status or where you are in your career, investing in higher education is a step you can take to improve your chances for success. And it’s easier than you might think to add something new to your busy schedule.

Options exist that allow you to interview over the phone or in person, or to let your fingers do the walking for you online. If your area of expertise involves learning that is best suited to in-person participation, many local area community colleges, business centers, and other specialized training facilities offer on-the-job programs to help your improve your technical skills and even learn new ones. Use your local Yellow Pages to find resources in or near your community. And remember to ask your neighbors, family, friends and business associates for their input. Word-of-mouth is still very effective in these days of enhanced communications.

Thanks to technical advancements especially over the past decade, numerous online schools and learning centers provide off-site opportunities for even the most remote areas of the world in varied disciplines, as well as hands-on talents like crafts. Some online education programs also offer accelerated classes and/or modules that allow you to work at your own pace. This option is particularly appealing to those with tight schedules and responsibilities that limit participation in an on-site learning program.

Use your favorite search engines (Google, Yahoo!, AltaVista, Bing, Ask, Twitter, Search Engine Land/Facebook, and others) to find programs tailored to your specialty or area of interest. Just enter your topic and targeted keywords (schools, training, learn, how to, classes, programs) to help narrow your search. Then email and/or call the number listed for information. It’s always best to actually speak with a live person when possible. In either case, specifically identify your interest and ask if and how that facility’s program can help you. Briefly tell them your circumstances and request information about cost, time lines, and other relevant facts. Get their name and contact information for faster service and easier follow-up.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/emp), “Education pays in higher earnings and lower unemployment rates.” In 2009, the following data was recorded for annual averages for persons age 25 and over and earnings for full-time wage and salary workers:

• Unemployment rate Doctoral degree 2.5; Median weekly earnings $1,532
• Unemployment rate Master’s degree 3.9; Median weekly earnings $1,257
• Unemployment rate Bachelor’s degree 5.2; Median weekly earnings $1,025
• Unemployment rate Some college/No degree 8.6; Median weekly earnings $699
• Unemployment rate High School Graduate 9.7; Median weekly earnings $626
• Unemployment rate Less Than High School Diploma 14.6; Median weekly earnings $454
• Unemployment rate Average all workers 7.9; Median weekly earnings Average $774

Financial assistance programs are available through government and private sponsorships for those who qualify. Consult www.bls.gov and your statewide resources for financial assistance for higher learning. Ask individual school programs for their financial assistance options.

When considering a higher education program, search for the most effective pathway that will meet your goals. Investigate all programs and compare them for the one that best fits your circumstances in all respects: finances, proximity, availability and accessibility. Before you begin a course, determine if getting a course extension is possible to cover any unexpected situation. Once you begin, firmly resolve to meet your commitment to complete the course. The process may be an inconvenience for a short while, but your determination will make a significant difference to your success.

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CYNTHIA BULL (http://www.cynrje.com/) is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes this feature article exclusively for Debbie May (http://www.debbiemay.com/), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.