This is where continuing education comes in. Continuing education is an important factor to keep employees engaged and retain their talents, thus benefiting the employer too.
Unfortunately, while employees are interested in continuing education opportunities, not all working professionals have the time to attend a class or go to school while pursuing a job. For those who are restricted by time, money, and physical location, online education opportunities can make for a viable alternative. Here are some tips for working professionals who are interested in taking the next step in their careers and enhancing their educational qualifications:
Consider an Online Postgraduate Degree
Today, there are many ways to obtain a postgraduate degree online. The rise of digitization has made education more accessible to more individuals, with online education gaining immense popularity. Some of the benefits of a postgraduate degree include a higher salary, more career prospects, industry-specific knowledge, and networking opportunities.
Any postgraduate degree, whether online or not, requires prior preparation. You’ll first want to think about what your end goal is and then narrow down options that will help you achieve this goal. To do so, ask yourself questions like, “Will this degree make me more marketable?” and “How will this specific degree help me at my current job?” If necessary, you can even talk to your employer and get hard feedback on your degree of choice.
Additionally, you’ll want to consider the credentials of your chosen school. Experts at Washington State University recommend reviewing the school’s accreditation, rankings, and faculty. They write, “Graduate coursework can be tougher and more dynamic than undergraduate, so it’s important to find a school and program that provides the resources to help you succeed. Thus, take your time when reviewing the credentials of your selected schools and try to obtain the most comprehensive overview you can.”
For instance, if networking is one of your goals, be sure to find out whether an online community of past and current online degree students already exists. This can yield valuable information and support. No two schools or programs are alike, even if they are online. With that said, you’ll want to make sure the school and program you choose gives you the best return on investment based on your goals.
Find Out About Company Funding
Often, companies are willing to either partially or fully sponsor continuing education opportunities for their employees. Whether it’s financial aid, revised work expectations, the allowance to work remotely, or mentorship, it’s likely your employer will provide some sort of support for your continuing education, especially if it is in an area that will directly benefit the company.
In this regard, with its many real-world applications, an MBA is a common option for business professionals. However, contrary to popular belief, obtaining an MBA isn’t the only continuing education opportunity relevant to those in the business world. Today, a masters degree in a more niche field can often get you as far or even further than an MBA might.
For instance, a consulting or market research firm might be inclined to sponsor a master’s degree in analytics. This sort of degree hones one’s skills to collect data and transform it into actionable intelligence, which is of immense value. Thus, pursuing further education in a field that is directly relevant to your current job could allow for increased support from your employer.
Before finalizing on any programs, have a frank conversation with your employer about your interest in continuing education and potential support opportunities. Even if nothing comes of it, it never hurts to ask.
Attend an Online Short Course or Webinar
If you’re not ready to commit to a postgraduate degree, a short course might be up your alley.
Today there are plenty of courses available online, many of which are even free to participate in. Platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, Khan Academy and Lynda have video lessons on everything from 3D printing to brand management and strategy, so you’re sure to find a course that suits your needs.
Students are very interested participating in online courses, and they expect a high level of support from instructors. One of the benefits of doing short courses online is that the initial investment is minimal, and you won’t be bound by time. Most short courses have flexible deadlines in terms of submitting assignments and/or homework and run at various times throughout the year.
Webinars are also great sources for expanding your knowledge. Tuning in to webinars will allow you to learn about a particular topic or theme from an industry expert. Though webinars don’t often come with certificates, they act as valuable information sessions that often explore a diverse array of subjects. They also provide an opportunity to interact with knowledgeable professionals online and gain insight through Q&A sessions in regards to the content of the webinar.
Attend In-House Training
According to the Forbes article, “Organizations are tailoring career-growth benefits to employees more than ever before.” The article states that 43 percent of employers offer executive or leadership coaching, 22 percent offer formal mentoring programs, and 16 percent offer career counseling. If your company offers any of these services, you might as well take advantage of them.
While in-house training may require you to dedicate a few extra hours to your work life, the benefits are well worth the time spent. Regularly attending in-house training sessions is an effective way to continue learning, often at no expense to you. Additionally, seriously committing to in-house training shows your employers that you are dedicated and hard-working, with a thirst for knowledge. The willingness to take initiative, as well as accept more responsibility, are traits appreciated by all employers. These impressions can often translate to broader advancements in your career.
With increasing competition, it is more important than ever to stay current. Yet, working professionals face many obstacles when it comes to continuing education — with money, time and location being at the top of the list. Thankfully, the digital revolution has given rise to a multitude of learning opportunities that are able to help individuals bypass these constraints. With that said, there is no better time than now to embark on your next educational journey.