Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is a Return to School in Your Future?

Have you been thinking about taking a few specialized courses or completing an advanced degree to better compete in the job market?

School is always an option; it is never too late to pursue more education. But don’t return to school because it seems like a good idea – have a solid plan and goal in mind before you start. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that an MBA, JD, PhD, etc, alone will automatically blast open the doors of opportunity. Or maybe you’re thinking, “Hey, lawyers make a lot of money, so I guess I’ll go to law school.” Your earning power should be thought of as a reward, not a goal. The prime question to answer is, “Where is the motivation coming from?” Will a return to school put you on a path to pursue that dream career? Are you being passed up for promotions because you lack an advanced degree that has become a preferred qualification in your field? What are the careers that will remain in demand for many years?

You may find that you don’t need a formal degree program. Perhaps you should consider a graduate certificate, often 12-18 credit hours, or a professional certification endorsed by a leading industry association. Professional certification, such as the PHR-Professional in Human Resources, CMA-Certified Management Accountant and PMP-Project Management Professional to name a few, have now become preferred qualifications. Certifications are a great way to gain new skills or validate existing skills and set oneself apart from the competition. Why not start out slow and complete one course? If the motivation is there, you will likely do quite well and be ready to sign up for additional courses or a full blown program.

If you haven’t finished a Bachelors Degree, now might be a good time to wrap that up. A Bachelors has now become a minimum qualification in many fields. There’s an array of quality “degree completion” programs, designed with the adult learner in mind.

If earning an advanced degree makes sense for your career growth, then do your homework, so to speak, and choose the right degree to reach your goals. Research the career options associated with specific degrees. There are dozens of graduate degrees to choose from, many specific to a chosen field. Learn the distinctions between MS, MA, MBA, MHA, MPA, MAT, MSN, MEd, JD, PhD, PsyD, DBA and the list continues. Gather information on preferred degree paths from professional associations. Identify people who are successful in your chosen career and learn about the choices they made to advance their credentials. And speak to program leaders at the schools you are considering, to get solid data on a program’s ability to help propel a student’s career.

When selecting a school make sure it will truly fit your needs. It is critical that the institution is fully accredited by one of the six regional accrediting bodies in the US, rather than any national body. Many programs can also achieve accreditation from a professional association, such as the American Nurses Association, as a mark of added quality on top of regional accreditation. You have a variety of program formats to choose from: full time, part-time, traditional classroom, evening/weekend, distance/online, blended learning, hybrid, etc. Online learning has become a new standard and many respected, traditional universities now offer online degree programs. Also, do some research to determine that a school and its programs have a solid reputation among employers.

Don’t forget to check out funding sources like loans and scholarships. Also speak with a tax professional about potential tax credits for some of the costs associated with a formal degree program.

Put in the extra effort up front to assess your motivation surrounding a return to school. Then do your research to find the right degree, program and school to meet your needs. With a targeted approach, you will be setting yourself up for success.

Here are a few resources to assist you with your planning:
Peterson's Graduate Planner;
the ProLearning Link;
50 Fastest Growing Occupations;
Accredited Online Degree Ranking at GetEducated.com

Friday, May 15, 2009

FREE De-Stress Kit for the Changing Times

We all know that millions of people are experiencing increasing levels of stress. HeartMath, a leading stress research institute, is offering a complimentary copy of their booklet De-Stress for the Changing Times (as a pdf). Click the banner to the left to download your free copy today.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

How About a Little Career Exploration?

Looking to explore career options? Maybe you're about to graduate from college Or maybe you're a seasoned pro interested in making a transition. Take a little time to explore some ideas and options on the types of occupations that might represent a better or best fit career for YOU.

Move well beyond the stereotypes of what you have heard and read about on the life of a teacher, doctor, lawyer, accountant, nurse, etc. And wrap your mind around the very real fact that most of us do NOT have stereotypical career roles. Most of us have HYBRID careers. What's a hybrid career? It is a composite of skills, strengths, interests, knowledge and responsibilities that crosses many traditional boundaries. For example, take the title of Project Manager, which exists at almost any company. You would be hard pressed to find an occupational description for project manager in any major career publication. This title represents a hybrid role; and the description (duties, experience, credentials, etc.) for this job will be unique because it will be defined by the organization.

So allow your mind to wander a bit, brainstorm and explore. You might just come across a few ideas for your next career move.

And you'll need some quality information to help with the exploration. iSEEK is a tremendous web site and offers an array of articles and resources on a broad variety of career topics. Check out these links to get started: