Adult Learner

6 Signs that now is the right time to finish your degree

Finish Your Degree 

In today’s higher education landscape — where nontraditional students have become the majority — every student’s path to completing a degree is unique. Some learners power through their college courses to finish a degree as quickly as possible. Other students begin their journey toward a degree but pause to pursue a career opportunity or personal obligation.

Just as the reasons to put education on hold vary, so too do the reasons to return. You may find yourself stuck in a rut in your current position. Or perhaps you’ve gained new flexibility by settling into a work-from-home routine. Whatever is impacting your perspective, you may be wondering if it’s the right time to jump back in and finish your degree.

To help you weigh your decision, we compiled a list of six motivators adult learners commonly credit for fueling their desire to return to higher education.

6 Signs you should go back to school

Reflect on the six statements below to see if they relate to your current situation. Perhaps you’ll recognize that now is an ideal time to finish your degree.

1. Your schedule has suddenly become more flexible

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the routines of working professionals – especially those who are parents. With childcare closures and schools transitioning to distance learning, you likely found yourself taking on several additional roles on top of your day job. Now that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and these facilities plan for a safe return to normal, you may find you now have the capacity to finish your degree like you’d always planned.

Another change spurred by the pandemic is the rise in remote work. What started as an obligation to comply with social distancing protocol has evolved into a new way of life, with many employees expressing increases in productivity and job satisfaction. This has led to some expectations that remote work will become more of a standard in the modern business world.

If you find yourself in this camp, finishing your degree may be more feasible than ever. The extra time you gain from not commuting and avoiding office interruptions can be put toward advancing your education. The key is finding a quality online program that allows you to complete your coursework on a schedule that’s convenient for you.

2. You can’t seem to find a job that offers adequate compensation

If you feel like you keep running into obstacles when searching for a job that can support you and your family, you’re not alone. Increasing earning potential has always been one of the top reasons adult students head back to the classroom.

While it’s true that a degree alone won’t automatically qualify you for a higher salary, there’s enough compelling evidence out there to suggest that higher educational attainment is associated with greater lifetime earnings.

Consider a study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce that reveals a bachelor’s degree-holder can expect to earn 74 percent more over their lifetime than someone with only a high school diploma. If you’re hoping to transition into a more lucrative career path, heading back to school to finish your degree could certainly help.

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3. You’re not excited about the positions you qualify for in your job search

Earnings aside, it’s possible you’ve reached a point where the jobs you’re qualified for don’t interest you any longer. Maybe you’re bored or just need a change of pace — but depending on your current education level, your options may be limited.

To find out how educational attainment affects your options, we turned to the data. We used real-time job analysis software to examine more than 18.5 million job postings from 2020.* While high school graduates qualified for just over 8 million of those jobs, those numbers multiply as educational attainment grows:

  • Associate degree-holders qualified for 10.2 million jobs
  • Bachelor’s degree-holders qualified for 17.5 million jobs
  • Master’s degree-holders qualified for 18.2 million jobs
  • Doctoral degree-holders qualified for 18.6 million jobs

It’s clear that your job opportunities could expand significantly if you level up with an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree. Doctoral-qualified candidates don’t qualify for significantly more positions than those with a master’s degree, but educational attainment also often depends on varying industry expectations and different career paths. These trends indicate that going back to school to finish your degree can help you hone new skills that employers value.

4. You keep getting passed over for promotions

It can be frustrating to feel like you’re stuck in a job that has no clear path forward. It’s even more disheartening if you see some of your colleagues get promoted while you remain stagnant. The environment of every organization is different, so there’s no foolproof recipe for achieving a promotion. But if you’re eager to climb the ladder, there are a handful of things you can do.

Career development professionals recommend building positive rapport with your manager, taking on extra responsibilities and finding ways to fill skill gaps that exist at your organization. Sometimes that means going back to school. In fact, 78 percent of employers factor continuing education efforts into promotions. You may even find that your company offers education benefits you could take advantage of.

5. You crave more opportunities to develop as a leader

People can exercise their leadership skills in many different ways throughout their lives — on a sports team, during group school projects and in parenting. But it can be difficult to land a managerial role if you don’t have the right credentials. One survey reports that approximately 80 percent of millennials think they have great leadership potential within their industries, yet another survey indicates that just 12 percent of them actually hold management titles.

One surefire way to stand out to managers hiring for the positions you’re interested in is to up the ante when it comes to your education. Finishing your degree can simultaneously demonstrate your commitment level and your expertise. If you focus your studies on something like business, management or organizational leadership, you can further develop the skills you’d need to thrive in a leadership position.

6. You need to stay on top of your game

We live in an age when just about every industry is experiencing rapid change thanks to technology and big data. If you’ve been working in the same position for a while, you’ve likely witnessed some of this evolution firsthand.

The workforce itself has also experienced significant changes. For the first time ever, there are five generations working in America’s professional climate, ranging from Traditionalists (born in 1945 and before) to Generation Z (born in 1996 and after). In this increasingly multigenerational workforce, young professionals are entering the workplace with skills designed to meet the evolving needs of our digital landscape. The need for upskilling is greater than ever.

Heading back to the classroom is a great way to sharpen your own skills and keep up with the changing pace of your industry. Even if pursuing a degree isn’t in the cards for you right now, there are a number of other options you might consider. You could, for instance, enroll in a certificate program or take individual courses. University of Massachusetts Global even has an entire School of Extended Education, which offers workshops, seminars, professional credits and webinars covering a variety of subjects to help you gain the skills you need to stay on the cutting edge of your industry.

There’s no better time than now to finish your degree

After analyzing some of the more common reasons you might go back to school to finish your degree, it’s clear that higher education can have a sizable impact on your life. Increased educational attainment can benefit your career, family and overall wellbeing.

If you’re convinced that you’re finally ready to finish what you’ve started, you’ll be in good company by choosing University of Massachusetts Global. In fact, nine out of 10 students work while completing their programs, and more than half are parents.

If you already have college credits and work experience you might want to consider a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Studies. This degree-competition program allows you to customize your courses to align with your desired career path.

Or explore more specialized programs in business, nursing and health, education and human services. With online and self-paced learning options, UMass Global offers you the flexibility you need to fit school into your busy schedule.


*Source: (analysis of 18,585,675 job postings from Jan. 01, 2020 – Dec. 31, 2020)

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