What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Going Back to College Later in Life?

If you’re older than a traditional college student, you may want to know about the advantages and disadvantages of going back to college later in life, and for the most part, the results are positive. There are several drawbacks, however, and depending on your current circumstances, you should consider the sacrifices you’ll have to make to start taking classes.

Considerations to Make Before Enrolling

It’s not always beneficial to get a college degree, and if you’re over 40, you should think carefully about the degree you’re planning to get. Not all degrees provide the same opportunities, and several bachelor’s degrees have almost no benefit without a related master’s degree. The cost of graduate and undergraduate education together is usually at least $50,000, and if the cost of your total education is greater than the amount you expect to earn during your first year of full-time work after college, you’re probably overpaying for college.

It’s never too late to completely change your life, and getting a degree is the surest way to gain prestige and a new perspective on life. If you have small children, going to college is a lot harder, and the best way to approach a degree is by taking it slowly. Online degrees aren’t always a better deal than traditional programs for adult students, and you can save about 20 percent on a four-year degree by going to a brick-and-mortar school instead of a for-profit online university. If you’re getting a two-year degree, the amount you save increases to about 50 percent.

Juggling home life, work and college can be tricky, and you shouldn’t make this commitment until you figure out if your degree will be worth the time and money you invest in it. It’s not always true that the more difficult degrees provide better opportunities, although in general, difficult degrees lead to higher-earning jobs. Some of these fields just don’t have that many jobs available, and getting a degree in chemical or electrical engineering at the age of 45 or 50 would probably only lead to underemployment and high student debt.

Best Degrees for the Money

Financially, two-year degrees are the best degrees to consider when you have less time to pay off the debt, although obviously these majors provide fewer opportunities than four-year degrees. The reality you’re going to have to deal with is that, as you get older, there are fewer career opportunities, and breaking into fields with low job availability becomes harder.

Careers like teaching, journalism and social work have low job availability and often require graduate education for stable employment. Some careers with high job growth are in healthcare, computer science, Web design and business. If you have a subject you’re particularly interested in, such as math or English, it may still make sense to major in it, especially if it gives you a sense of completeness. It’s hard to put a value on the emotional aspect of graduating from college or the perspective you get from the experience, although these intangible elements will certainly help you in your career.

Most people can benefit from going back to college, although it may require a small change of plans to choose the right major. The advantages and disadvantages of going back to college later in life are mostly tipped in the positive direction.

Please also see: Will I Make More Money with a College Degree?