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Blog>Guides>Guide to Going Back to School at Any Age in 2021 and Making the Most of It

Guide to Going Back to School at Any Age in 2021 and Making the Most of It

Article index


  • Motivations for going back to school
  • The benefits of returning to college
  • How to mix school and work successfully
  • How to include education on your resume


Going back to school to finish a degree is a big decision, both personally and financially. Whether you’re returning to school after several years or even decades, higher education enrollment offers far-ranging benefits. From starting a new career to advancing in your current job, a college degree can help you get where you want to be in your career.

Read on to learn why adult students choose this path and how a college education can offer work-related and personal benefits.

What Are Your Motivations for Going Back to School?

There are many reasons someone may choose to go back to school. And as a nontraditional college student, this can look very different from person to person.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) categorizes a nontraditional student as a person who might work a full-time job and study part time. Other distinctions include being financially independent, living off-campus, or not being a recent high school graduate. This can affect what drives them to work toward a college degree. While not an inclusive list, the following sections list some common motivations for returning to school.

A Career Change

Going back to school can help you change careers. Some adult learners choose a community college to focus on a particular field of study, such as IT or health care. This can take the form of an associate’s degree or even a non-degree certification. Some fields, of course, require advanced education, and you may need a bachelor’s or master’s degree for your new career.


Research your job interests to find the ideal career path for you. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is an excellent starting point to help you discover jobs you may not have considered or even knew existed. With the BLS search tool, you can enter job fields to find out the average pay in your area and the projected job growth. You can also find out the recommended skill set and education requirements, in addition to related careers that may interest you. With this information in hand, you’ll be better equipped to plan your new career.

To Prove Something to Yourself or Your Family

Going back to school can fill you with pride and confidence because you’re finishing what you once started. It can show your family and yourself that you’re committed to personal growth. Finishing your college education is an accomplishment and can offer a sense of value and personal achievement.

Returning to school at any point requires a level of grit and tenacity, though. Completing coursework while working, raising a family, or through any life circumstance is an incredible achievement and definitely worth celebrating.

To Earn More Money

Some adult learners choose to return to school to show current or potential employers they have in-demand education and skills for the workplace. A college education can increase your earning potential exponentially.

According to the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU), those who hold a bachelor’s degree earn about $32,000 more annually than those with only a high school diploma. The APLU expects this gap will continue to widen.


Even people who already have a bachelor’s degree may return to school to improve their earning potential. Some fields require an advanced degree to move up. Pursuing a master’s degree may prove helpful in these situations. Upper managerial positions and education administrators, such as principals, require a graduate degree. Other career fields where advanced education may improve earning potential include historians, sociologists, and computer science.

Is It Worth It to Go Back to School?

The perspective of value and worth is very personal and differs for everyone. Going back to school has many benefits, including increased employability and earning potential. Other benefits include far-reaching community and societal benefits, like increased volunteerism and less reliance on government programs, such as unemployment benefits, food assistance, and housing subsidies.

Many public university students graduate with less than $30,000 in debt. The good news is that as an adult learner, tuition assistance is an option, no matter what age you are.

Get in touch with your school’s financial aid office and apply for aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) through the U.S. Department of Education. You might be eligible for grants or qualify for student loans to pay for undergraduate or graduate school. You may even qualify for academic or transfer scholarships to cover expenses.

So, is it worth going back to school? That depends on what you’re wanting out of the experience. However, if the cost is an issue, there are several options, such as community college and public university.

Online Courses for Returning Students

Online learning is often an excellent solution for those with a busy schedule who want to go back to school. This option offers greater flexibility for those working full-time jobs or caring for their families. Many higher learning institutions offer online learning to reach more people who want to finish their degrees. Some universities even carry 100% online degree programs to help people reach their learning and career goals.


Although incredibly flexible, online coursework isn’t for everyone. That doesn’t mean a degree is not in your future, though. If you need a more structured learning experience, there are several traditional learning options. Many college campuses offer evening and weekend classes that can accommodate the full-time work schedules of adult learners. Some colleges also offer condensed coursework that can be completed in a shorter length of time.

Whether online or in-person, there are several options to meet the needs of adults going back to school.

Including Your Education on Your Resume

You should include your recent education on your resume, even if you haven’t graduated. This can help explain employment gaps and also show your aptitude and skills with relevant coursework. This helps set you apart from other candidates and can make your resume significantly more competitive in the job market.

When including your education on your resume, match the job requirements you’re applying for. Include the name of your school and graduation year if you haven’t graduated yet. If your resume is lacking professional experience, position your education section above your work experience. Include any certifications or degree requirements you’ve earned and any organizational leadership roles you held while in school.

If you’re unsure how to format your resume, get in touch with the career center at your school. They can help you write a resume that highlights your newly earned skills. Joblist also has several resources, like this definitive resume guide, to help you land your dream job.

Find In-Demand Jobs for Graduates on Joblist

Finding a job can be overwhelming. That’s why at Joblist, we humanize the job hunt and make it easier with helpful tools and tricks to assist you along the way.

Ready to build your own job list? Get your personalized results using our job quiz! Set your desired job role, location, and view your matches. You can create a daily email alert to help you stay in the know about current job offerings in your area.

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