If you’re a working adult, you may have decided that going back to school for an undergraduate or graduate degree was not a realistic option. After all, you have no time to hang around a campus. Fortunately, this view of reality is not quite accurate. You can get a traditional graduate or postgraduate degree in your field without having to quit your job or begin working part time. 

The solution to going back to school while still taking care of all your financial responsibilities is to take an accelerated education program.

What Is It?

Essentially, it’s a program that is specifically designed for people who are working and who have a significant amount of work experience.

You can study almost everything available for regular college students, although, of course, most of the classes are oriented to career enhancement. So, you are more likely to find courses in information technology, human resource management, marketing management and healthcare management than in thermodynamics, metaphysics, and astrophysics.

Common Reasons for Going Back to School

If you’re thinking of going back to school, then it is usually because of one or two reasons:

One: you like your field, but you are so far down the corporate ladder that you are unlikely to get promoted anytime soon.

Two, you realize that you are in the wrong field. You have career regret. Your current job does not suit your temperament and you want to get out as quickly as possible.

An accelerated program will work with either option. It will either catapult your career, putting you in a place where you make the big decisions and earn the big money or it will help you start over doing something you love. The nice thing about these programs is that they will take you to where you want to go fast—sometimes in as little as 18 months.

How it Works

There are usually online classes and campus classes, and you will go to class once a week for an average of four hours. The live classes are usually small, making it easy for you to get to know other students and get personalized attention from the instructor.

Besides learning in the classroom, you’ll also study at home, supplementing what you’ve learned in class with in-depth assignments. Often a school may have several locations in the city where you live, giving you a choice to attend at a class closest to you. If this is not possible, then you might simply be able to attend online classes.

Your instructors will often be working professionals in the field you want to specialize in. Since they don’t just have academic knowledge, but also real world experiences, they will create a curriculum for you that will be apply to your working life.

You will also get much the same support as if you were in college. There will be a student affairs service, professional academic counselors, and even free tutoring if you’re having difficulty with a subject. In addition, just like a regular school, there will be staff who can discuss financial options with you. You may be able to get your employer to reimburse your fees or you may be able to arrange for a grant or scholarship.

There are many examples of these progressive types of schools for working people. The Philadelphia–based university Gwynedd Mercy describes its program as “offering prestigious undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in accelerated, traditional, and online formats.” It also focuses on preparing “students for careers in business, education, nursing, healthcare, and the arts and sciences.”

Commit to Success

If you do decide to go back to school, you have to be committed. While the classes themselves are usually enjoyable, and you’ll be meeting new and interesting people as well as embark on an adventure that will transform your life, you also have to realize that like all worthwhile pursuits, some sacrifice may be necessary.

Unless, you already have a great life, you will still have to cope with life’s challenges and juggling family and work life. At times, these temporary pressures may even make you question the value of your ambitions to do better in life.

Here are some tips to keep your chin up and stay the course:

  • Set a clear goal of why you are in school and what you will get out of it. Read this mission statement aloud everyday to lock in your sense of purpose.
  • Encourage yourself with affirmations cards and listen to music that motivate you when you’re not in the mood to study.
  • Encourage your fellow classmates as they also fight the good fight, because as you encourage others, you’ll also encourage yourself.
  • Surround yourself with people who will push, prod, cajole, and encourage you. People who will pick you up when you’re down and push you forward when you need some momentum.
  • Finally, find a way to express your feelings like art, dance, or yoga. You may also want to consider an active sport like aikido or rock climbing.

It’s never too late to change your life, and it’s always the most rewarding decision you can make.

By Kar

Dr. Kar works in the interface of digital transformation and data science. Professionally a professor in one of the top B-Schools of Asia and an alumni of XLRI, he has extensive experience in teaching, training, consultancy and research in reputed institutes. He is a regular contributor of Business Fundas and a frequent author in research platforms. He is widely cited as a researcher. Note: The articles authored in this blog are his personal views and does not reflect that of his affiliations.