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Continuing Education – It’s Game Changing

Posted by Chad O'Connor  February 24, 2012 11:30 AM

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Whether you are continuing your education in your 20s or 50s, it can be a worthwhile endeavor. Most agree that that it takes an incredible amount of time and effort. In fact, you may suddenly find yourself frequently writing papers all hours of the night and no longer being able to take leisurely vacations. However, that’s just temporary, and the benefits outweigh the negatives. In the end, continuing education is rewarding and game changing in a positive way.

According to Dorothy Whalen, Board President of the National Association of Women MBAs (NAWMBA) Boston Chapter, although she was already at the CFO level, it was definitely worth going back to school for her MBA. Whalen said “No one can take away my education.” Attending Northeastern University’s Executive MBA program allowed her to learn among other leaders with diverse experiences and perspectives and enabled her to keep current on new technologies, trends, and best practices.

Evelyn Tate, Director of Graduate Recruitment & Admissions at Northeastern University stated continuing education helps you remain competitive in the workplace, and additional education can set you apart from other candidates, whether you are applying for a position or looking to be promoted within a company. Tate also said although there’s financial expenses involved with attending school, there’s also financial benefits going forward. A Bureau of Labor & Statistics study shows that the financial benefits of continuing one’s education can be significant.

Networking and the social aspect are added benefits of continuing education. The class atmosphere provides an opportunity to build your network and build deep relationships that will last a lifetime. Diane Darling, CEO of Effective Networking, Inc. and author of “The Networking Survival Guide” suggests getting involved as much as possible and “building relationships before you need them.” For example, people often reach out to their former classmates for business or service referrals. Darling also suggests joining the conversation, getting involved with alumni networks after graduating, and staying in touch with former classmates.

Before deciding to go back to school, one should be ready for the commitment involved. Michelle Jacobo, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, Program Director at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, attended a 5-year full-time, fully intensive program, as well as 2 years of post-doctoral training and said it was like giving up 7 years of her adult life outside of school while she was in her 20s. However, she doesn’t regret doing so in any way. Not only was it necessary for her field of expertise in healthcare, but it was also rewarding.

Whalen said for sixteen months, she spent most of every waking hour outside of work on studying to prepare for team meetings, classes and deliverables. Those efforts paid off, as they increased her team building skills and made her stronger in the working world. Whalen was fortunate to have received a partial scholarship, but her school loans were still significant.

If you determine you want to go back to school, do your homework. Before making a decision, research programs and determine the right one for you. There are so many options these days, such as full-time, part-time, blended learning, and dual degrees. For those that have to travel frequently for work or have extremely busy schedules, online programs may be the way to go.

Whether online or on campus, continuing education will build your skill set and better equip you in the workplace and in life.

Some Important Tips
· Visit school websites, talk to friends and professional colleagues, and tour school campuses and classrooms.

· Many schools offer the opportunity to speak with students and instructors – take advantage of that to get a real sense of the commitment involved.

· Review school rankings and look for accredited schools. Massachusetts has a long list of excellent schools to choose from.

· If you have interest in international business, consider schools that have an international business program, including travel opportunities.

· If you plan on taking classes on campus, take the school’s location into consideration and determine if it will work logistically.

· Develop a plan on how you will support yourself financially while in school and how you will pay for school.

· Speak with a school financial aid counselor to learn about payment and financial aid options.

· Research scholarships and look for tuition-funded opportunities.

Ellen Keiley is a Boston World Partnerships Connector and a member of the Business Development Department at K&L Gates in Boston. She can be contacted at ellen.keiley@ klgates.com

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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