How to Go Back to School at 30

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Are you considering going back to school at age 30?

Adulthood has a way of sneaking up on you around age 30. You may be married, having kids and getting established in your career, and suddenly you’re questioning the future.

Are you headed in the right direction? Is this the career you want forever? Will you make enough money to support your family? Can you move up the corporate ladder?

Having a college degree can put you in a better position to change careers, earn a promotion or make more money, but do you really want to be going back to school at age 30?

Now is the time to decide!

Why do people go back to school at 30?

There are a number of reasons people return to school around age 30.

Some people are looking to transition into a new field. Perhaps they didn’t choose wisely the first time around, or their interests have changed. They may have advanced as far as they can, so they need to pursue something else in order to feel challenged or fulfilled.

In some cases, people plan to stay in their current field, but need a higher degree in order to advance.

For example, people going back to grad school at 30 usually do so to open more doors professionally.  A higher degree can help them get ahead in their field, take on more responsibilities and earn more money.

Students who are going back to nursing school at age 30 may have an associate or bachelor’s degree, or simply a high school diploma, but feel compelled to help others. They can pursue many levels of education.

Going back to medical school at 30 is an option for those who completed nursing school or another degree and want to move forward in the medical field. Perhaps they couldn’t afford medical school when they were younger, or they had different career goals then.

No matter the reason, no matter what level or type of degree you’re pursuing, age 30 is the perfect time to go back to school!

You’ve been out of school for less than 10 years, so you haven’t completely forgotten how to take quality class notes or format an essay. Your study skills are still somewhat fresh.

On the other hand, you have had time to mature, gain professional experience and set thoughtful career goals. All of this will help you select a worthwhile program that can help you achieve your goals.

Is going back to school at age 30 worth it?

Yes, going back to school is worth the time, effort and cost! In nearly every instance, earning a degree will improve your prospects for employment and your earning potential

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with every level of degree attainment, the rate of unemployment decreases and the earnings increase.

For example, a 2019 study comparing median weekly earnings of adults 25 and older, found that those with the highest level of education earned almost 2.2 times as much as those who held only a high school diploma.

The earning gap between workers with only a high school diploma ($592) and those with a bachelor’s degree ($1248) was also profound.

The unemployment rates show a similar disparity.

Unemployment rates for adults with a bachelor’s degree were 2.2%, and for those with a professional degree a mere 1.6%. But for those with only a high school diploma, unemployment rates were significantly more at 3.7%.

The simple truth is if you have a degree, you are more likely to get hired for a full-time job, and earn a better living.

What are the pros and cons of going back to school at 30?

As with most adult decisions, there are pros and cons to consider when it comes to going back to school at age 30.

Pros

  1. You can earn more money.
  2. You will be a candidate for more prestigious jobs, including managerial or administrative roles.
  3. A new degree can help you change career paths entirely.
  4. While earning a degree, you can network with other professionals – professors, lecturers, industry leaders, alumni.
  5. You will gain increased knowledge in the field.
  6. By pursuing a degree online, you can maintain your current career and family commitments.
  7. Online learning allows tremendous flexibility in terms of your schedule, how many classes you take at a time, and so on.
  8. Online degree programs are sometimes more affordable.
  9. At age 30, you’ve got a good head on your shoulders. You have had more time to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, and set attainable career goals.
  10. At 30, school is no longer a routine hassle, like it was when you had been doing it every day since you were 5. After the time away, you value education and the opportunity to learn about your field.

Cons

  1. Though it is flexible, earning your degree online will still require hard work and dedication. You will likely have to make some sacrifices.
  2. Education has a price tag. You should complete the FAFSA and apply for scholarships, but know that you may still have hefty tuition bills or need to take out loans.
  3. There are no guarantees for that new job or better paycheck – it’s likely, but not promised.

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons as they affect your life, and decide what’s best for you, your family and your future.

What do I need to know about going back to school at 30?

Going back to school is a big decision, so it’s important that you know what you’re getting into.

Here are three important things to consider:

1. Manage your expectations, both during and after college.

You need to have realistic expectations when it comes to getting your degree.

First, college is hard work! You may have several years invested in your field and have more experience and maturity than the other students, but that doesn’t mean you’ll breeze through the program. There are new concepts, strategies and skills you will have to learn and develop. You will need to study and work hard in order to do well, just like other students.

Second, while studies show that individuals with college degrees earn more and have higher rates of employment, it isn’t a guarantee. Landing a great job, earning a promotion or a raise, and growing in your career take more than just a diploma – they require experience and hard work. Even after you have earned your degree, it may take time before you see results in your professional life.

Just remember: Earning a degree will position you for success, but succeeding will require constant effort.

2. Know the cost and what financial aid is available.

Since you are 30, you may already have a job that can help pay for your education. By pursuing your degree online, you can continue working and earning that income.

But college is expensive, so it’s a good idea to look for financial assistance, too.

At age 30, you are eligible for many of the same aid opportunities as other students. Here are some to look for:

Tuition Reimbursement Programs

Some employers offer tuition reimbursement programs to incentivize workers to continue their education and grow professionally. Such programs may require you to agree to stay with your current employer for a specified period of time after graduating.

Check to see if your employer offers tuition reimbursement and what the qualifications are.

Scholarships

Scholarships are free money that you won’t have to pay back, so spend some time searching and applying for them.

What scholarships are available for adult students, online students, people in your field? What other skills, experience, unique circumstances, or volunteer work do you have that might help you earn a scholarship?

Fastweb.com and scholarships.com are great resources for connecting students with scholarship opportunities!

FAFSA

Don’t neglect to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)!

Now that you’re 30, you won’t have to include your parents’ info, and you may qualify for even more assistance. You may think you make too much to qualify for need-based aid, but nearly everyone who applies is offered some assistance. And even if you aren’t, the FAFSA can connect you with low interest loans that can help.

3. Choose the right program for you.

You need to choose the degree program that can help you achieve your goals, but how you can be sure?

First, talk to other professionals in your field, especially those who are currently in the position you are pursuing. Is this the degree they have or would recommend? Do they feel that the school and program are reputable? Do they have other advice or recommendations you should consider?

Also, learn more about the program itself. Do you have any credits to transfer and if so, will they be accepted? Will your work experience earn you any credit? Is the program designed for working adults? How long will it take? What happens if you fall behind? What type of tech support is available? Can you access campus resources such as the library?

These are all important questions to answer as you evaluate degree programs and find the one that will best suit you.

Conclusion

Going back to school at age 30 is tough and there are a lot of factors to consider. But remember this: going back to school at 35, 40, or 50 won’t be any easier.

If getting your degree is important to you personally and/or professionally, go for it! Chances are you won’t regret it.

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.