To return to college or not

Q: I’m 50 and without a degree. I am currently a Public Health Coordinator and have been for 10 years. Should I go back to school?

A: Returning to school is a commitment, but it is a commitment that often brings additional rewards. Returning to school is a very personal decision and difficult to answer based on what little information you have shared. Some questions that may help you make a sound decision:

1. Why are you returning to school? For personal satisfaction? A career change? Because you have credits toward a degree but never completed the degree?

2. What about finances? Does your current employer offer tuition aid? Can you attend school part-time? How long would it take you to attain your degree? Make sure that your plan to return to school is economically viable.

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3. Do you plan to consider a certificate program? An associate’s degree? A bachelor’s degree?

Public health is a growing field. Employment opportunities are expected to be strong. When I researched this field, it appears that most senior-level opportunities in this field require some type of degree and/or licensure. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/oco), a bachelor’s degree (or higher) is often required for many roles. Management roles in particular may require a master’s degree. For Medical and Health Services Managers, the BLS specifically states, “Job opportunities will be good, especially for applicants with work experience in healthcare and strong business and management skills. A master’s degree is the standard credential, although a bachelor’s degree is adequate for some entry-level positions.”

Education does pay off. Recently the College Board, a non-profit organization in New York that researches educational trends and data, found that people with college degrees earn more than their counterparts without college degrees. Additionally, those with college degrees are less likely to be unemployed during their lifetimes. To read more about the benefits of a college education, you can download a free copy of the full report entitled “Education Pays 2010” by visiting http://trends.collegeboard.org/files/Education_Pays_2010.pdf.

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