In order to break into a new field or advance your career in a meaningful way, furthering your education is undoubtedly your biggest obstacle and most important factor. Attending a traditional on-campus program is not always feasible, due to work, family and other issues. While online schooling used to carry quite the stigma, it is increasingly becoming seen as a legitimate way to earn a degree. In fact, many of the top “traditional” schools in the country offer their own online programs.
These programs offer convenience and flexibility, something crucial to students already putting in 40 or more hours a week out in the working world. Online education makes it easier than ever to get the knowledge and skills you need to move up the ladder, and increase your salary. But, taking on a degree program while working, is no easy task, but one that is surely achievable. Here are just a few tips to help you out.
Choosing Your Program
Choosing your program can seem like a daunting task; because you are pursuing your degree online, you are not limited to schools near your home. The first thing you want to do to narrow down the field is check accreditation. The most important ones will be regional accreditation that review schools in that particular geographic region, such as Middle States Associations of College and Schools, and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. You can always check a school on the US Department of Education website. Investigate any accreditation listed because some of them may mean very little. Look for special accreditation for individual degree programs specific to the field of study.
Determine how long you want to take to complete the program. The 4 year standard needs to be removed from your expectation. Some options, such as Gwynedd Mercy accelerated programs, may take as little as one year to 18 months. But, this may not be feasible for some people depending on the nature of their work and other responsibilities. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Be patient, and do it right.
Carefully consider the course of study to determine whether it is the right move; make sure it will properly prepare you for the line of work in which you are interested.
Make Stress Management a Priority
Stress can really mess with us, and make it difficult to achieve our goals. There is no doubt going to school and work simultaneously will leave you feeling very stressed at times. And that is to be expected. If it can’t be avoided, you must commit to taking measures that will keep it in check. A less-stressed mind is a clearer mind; you will make smarter choices regarding the use of your time to ensure you give your studies the attention they deserve. You will be able to concentrate better while studying and completing assignments. You are doing something really important for your career right now, don’t let poor stress management blow it for you.
Remember the importance of finding balance in your life, and not burning out.
Remember Your ‘Why’
Why are you going back to school to advance your career? This question may bring to mind very simple answers, like wanting to move up in your field, wanting to switch to a career that is more interesting, or wanting to make more money. Those answers are find and good, but only scratch the surface. You must go deeper, and get in touch with your core desires and values, the things that are truly driving your decision to get an online degree. Why do you want more money? Why do you want to advance in your field? Why do you want to move into that other career path? Keep asking why, until you get to the root.
There are going to be times when you are feeling completely overwhelmed; when you want to do nothing more than just veg out in front of the tv, but know you can’t because you have to read three chapters; when you wonder if you have made a mistake. This is all normal, it doesn’t mean you made a bad choice. But, these feelings can really make it hard to do what you need to do, and it is easy to fall behind, or not do your best work.
Going back to your ‘why’ will reinvigorate your efforts; it will help you adopt a more positive perspective on the challenges you are facing right now; it will help you prioritize wisely. It will provide the motivation you need—remember motivation is something that needs to be cultivated on a regular basis.
Congratulations on deciding to make a better life for yourself; know it will be challenging, but you can do it, if you decide you will.