Over the last two decades, the pace of technological change has left many workers needing to refresh their skills to advance their careers, but many middle-aged workers don’t have the time or funds to pursue a second degree. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to a four-year university. Here are four options that allow workers to further their education at their own pace and without breaking the bank.
If the employee is looking to make a career change, then exploring affordable online colleges could be that person’s best bet. These colleges tailor their curriculum for distance learners, allowing them to pursue an education from anywhere and on the weekends. They offer real classes with legitimate teachers who lecture and grade work assignments, just like a real-world university.
And if money is a concern, online colleges offer a wealth of options for financing, including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA opens the door for low-interest federal loans that can pay the entire cost. If the school is accredited by the United States Department of Education, scholarships and grants are available too.
Many employers offer their own training programs as an inducement to retain their own employees. These real-world training programs are often more valuable to the employer than a university degree because they’re targeted to the employer’s needs.
Employees can take these classes from home in their spare time or even during work hours. And best of all, they’re often free!
Whatever profession an employee works in, there’s probably an association that offers certifications in their field. For instance, a mechanical engineer can burnish their credentials by adding a Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing Professional certification offered by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers association. The employee only needs to purchase the GDTP guide and the test.
These certifications usually last for several years before needing to be renewed, and they improve an employee’s value on the job market. Some tech professionals may witness a high pay increase with only a single certification, so the more they have, the better they’ll do financially.
Unfortunately, many degrees and certifications simply can’t be attained online from home. If a worker wants to learn Metal Inert Gas welding, for instance, that person needs to be in an actual shop environment using a MIG welding machine and wire. And they need the close supervision of an experienced welder training them along the way.
Thankfully, there are hundreds of community colleges spread throughout the United States. Each college offers various certifications and two-year degrees a worker can pursue. Because community colleges are typically accredited, they qualify for the same FAFSA and scholarship opportunities as four-year universities.
Any workers who face diminishing career prospects due to outdated skillsets need not worry. There are plenty of options they can turn to if they want to increase their skills and financial value. By adding to their educational backgrounds, workers can rest easy knowing that employers will be seeking out their newly learned expertise.