January 13, 2009
By Janet Farley
It’s a new year and a new opportunity to evolve into the career dynamo you envisioned. One sure-fire way to realize your professional goals can be found by stepping back into the classroom on a short or long-term basis.
It’s true the current job market is not enjoying its shiniest moment. Unemployment rates are nearing seven percent and it seems that no one is immune from these recessionary times. While a college degree or a new skill or two on your resume won’t inoculate you fully in the current economic climate, it may help to minimize your potential for joining the growing ranks of the sniffling unemployed masses.
Before You Leap…
Before jumping feet first into academia or into a tempting training option, consider what it is you want to achieve out of the process before you start shelling out the big bucks.
Do you want an actual college degree or would a specialized certification be more appropriate? Perhaps you are seeking simply looking to add a few new skills to your resume and can achieve that through one or two classes.
Worthy goals to be sure, all of them; however, each requires a different level of time, dollars and dedication. Select a path that best fits your life situation before committing to one fully.
For example, you may set your long-term sights on becoming a registered nurse. Earning that credential could take anywhere from two to four years and could cost between $800 and $30,000 per semester, depending upon the school and any specialities. As an alternative, you could enroll in a class to become a licensed nurse’s aide. Upon successful completion of just one course, you could opt to get a job as a nurse’s aid and continue to work towards your long-term goal of becoming an RN. Such a class usually costs between from $300 to $500 and the credits can generally be applied towards your RN degree program.
Another question to consider is whether your current career still interests you or pay sufficiently? If you are interested but need to move up to become better paid, then how can you enhance your skills?
Maybe a new direction is called for. If so, what career field interests you? Does it require going back to school in full-force or only for a short time?
Ask yourself the following questions concerning any program of study or training your contemplate:
How long is the program of study for that area? Do you have the time on station, literally and figuratively, to see it through? If you don’t, can any long-term program of study you begin be transferred when you are? The answer maybe “yes” if the school you currently attend and the one you want to attend at your new duty station are members of the Servicemember's Opportunity College (SOC), a consortium of more than 1800 colleges and universities that provide educational opportunities for service members and their families. SOC allows you to complete programs started at one school, at another, without having to start over every time you move. Your education center counselor can give you more details or visit the SOC website at www.soc.aascu.org
What is the projected job market for someone having expertise in that area? It may be great now, but what about when you are finished with it? Will it still scream for your newly-minted talents or will be the unemployment line be filled with others touting the same sterling credentials? Check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook job prospects for details.
Can you get that program of study where you are currently stationed, either on the installation or off? Is it offered and viable to take on-line? Is the school offering the class or program of study accredited? Find out at College Accreditation in the United States -- TOC.
Speaking of the Big Bucks…
It’s no news flash that the cost of higher education is rising along with the unemployment rate.
According to College Board’s, Trends in College Pricing, the 2007-2008 annual cost for a student attending a four-year public college or university ranges from $17,336 – $28,000 (in-state versus out-of-state tuition, books, room and board) and over $35,000 for private institutions.
College degree programs or job training opportunities offered on military installations or in your local community may not cost as much and in some cases, may be free (to a point) such as the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts where you can receive job training and training for portable careers.
Talk with an education center counselor to get the dirty details on options and program availability in your area.
Wherever you take your classes, research and take advantage of available military tuition assistance, scholarships and grants targeted to military spouses and service members. There are lots of organizations wishing to show their appreciation of the greater military family of which you are a bonafide, card-carrying member.
Research any loan or scholarship offerings completely before committing actual funds or obligating to do so. See the following for more information: students.gov - Student Gateway to the U.S. Government and FinAid! Financial Aid, College Scholarships and Student Loans. CinCHouse.com also maintains a running list of scholarships available for spouses.
Get more ideas for taking the financial crunch out of your education by visiting Paying for School on the National Family Member Association website.
If you are currently employed and have access to a tuition reimbursement program or company provided skills training, take advantage of those benefits as well.
Never fall prey to scams promising you “free” scholarship, grant or loan monies. Nothing is free and the business of selling the façade of higher education and training is a big time racket in search of suckers. Don’t be one.
Whether you enhance your future professional marketability through a long-term degree program, a specialized job certification process or a short-term training opportunity, you can’t go wrong in the long run.