As it turns out, not everyone is equipped to make decisions about their future career at the age of 17 or 18. This is especially true when you factor in the years—or, in many cases, decades—it often takes to pay off study debt.
So, let’s say you’re considering going back to school as an adult, but aren’t sure whether it makes sense for you right now. Here are four questions to ask yourself to help you determine whether it’s worth the time and effort it’ll take to further your education.
Questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to go back to school
Going back to school as an adult is a major—and potentially difficult—decision. If you’re not sure where to start, try asking yourself these four questions, which Brandon Johnson, a certified professional career coach from Embrace Change, recently shared with NPR’s Life Kit:
1. Do I know what to go back to school for?
Is there a specific degree or program you have your eye on, or is it more about having a certain level of education in order to qualify for a job? Start by identifying the goals you hope to achieve by going back to school, then determine whether more education is really necessary, and if so, what kind of program, certificate, or degree would best help you achieve them.
2. Do I have the necessary resources to make this happen?
Even if you’re fortunate enough to have an employer cover your tuition, don’t forget to factor in the time, effort, and energy you’ll need to go back to school, Johnson says. Once you figure out the potential impacts of your decision on both yourself and your household (if applicable), he urges you to consider whether those impacts are acceptable to you.
3. Is it really education that’s holding me back, and not something else?
Are you considering going back to school in order to achieve specific career goals, or are you simply using it as a way to escape a toxic manager or work environment? “If it’s your company culture or structure, you may be better off searching out a new organization that offers greater growth opportunities and support for your development,” Johnson tells NPR.
4. What options make the most sense?
If you determine that going back to school is the right decision for you right now, be sure to do some research and explore all the available options. Sure, there are associate, bachelor’s, graduate, and doctorate or professional degrees, but don’t overlook professional certificates, conferences, or other training programs.
“Reach out to your network to see if you can identify people who are already in the positions you aspire to be in,” Johnson tells NPR. “Ask them what types of training programs they would recommend.”