Personal growth, higher employability, and increased earning potential are benefits of getting a college degree. Whether your life experiences have led you to go back to school to pursue your first undergraduate degree, earn your graduate degree, or finish a degree you previously started, going back to college at 30 can significantly improve your financial situation and potential for career growth.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates that college degree holders earn significantly more than those without a college degree. Luckily, there are no age limits for going to college. This article will provide you with a guide to going back to college at 30, along with some alternatives to college.
Is 30 Too Old to Go Back to School?
No, 30 is not too old to go back to school. While you may have more going on in your life as a 30-year-old compared to a new high school graduate, such as a full-time job, family, or business, than a high school grad, it’s not too late for you to pursue college. Getting an advanced degree may be demanding, but there are ways to find a balance between school and personal life.
Why You Should Go Back to School at 30
- More Job Opportunities. 30-year-old students can access more job opportunities by getting a degree. There are more positions available for people with post-secondary education than for those without. Going to college allows you to meet and network with new people in the industry who can help you get a job after graduating.
- Skill Improvement. At the age of 30, you’ll have gathered some real-world experience. Going back to college for a more advanced degree can help you hone this experience into new skills related to your work. Some career paths also require an undergraduate degree or graduate degree to access.
- Career Change. Another reason people go to college at 30 is to change their careers. In their teenage years, many people pick a career without a solid plan. When you are 30, you have a better idea of what you enjoy and what career goals will satisfy your ambitions, going back to college is a great way of achieving these.
- Increase Your Earnings. Going back to college to get a degree can improve your chances of earning more. Statista shows that the mean earnings of bachelor’s degree workers are about $73,499 while high school graduates’ mean income is only $39,498.
- Build a Network. Building a larger network is a perk that comes with attending college, regardless of your age. Going back to college at 30 helps you connect with other prospective professionals in your field of interest. With this network, you can ask for help when you need guidance or even get updated on trends and employment opportunities.
How to Go Back to College at 30
Going back to school at 30 can be pretty challenging, but it is never too late. The competition for employment is always rising and upskilling is vital to standing out and staying relevant in a workplace. Climbing up the career ladder and improving your earning potential are important. To help you navigate the process, below are our tips on how to go to college at 30.
1. Find the Right College Degree Program
Universities offer a wide variety of college degree programs. You will have to choose which one helps you most with your desired career path, whether that’s a bachelor’s or master’s degree. If you’re going back to school at age 30, you need a plan. Extensively researching the different courses and programs available to you will help you achieve your career goals.
2. Talk to People in the Industry
Contact professionals in your industry of interest to learn about the perks and challenges of starting a career there. Ask about the education path they took to get to where they are. You can also check job postings to get an idea of the qualifications you’ll need to be able to apply.
3. Prepare Your Finances
College degrees are expensive and take a few years to complete. Before starting your journey back to college, make sure you have an effective plan to cover your tuition and other living costs. You can check the Federal Student Aid website and other scholarship boards for grants and student loans.
4. Motivate Yourself
It’s easy to get discouraged when returning to school at age 30. While the challenges you will face are valid, understand that others have gone through these same challenges and made it out, meaning you can, too. It’s never too late to go back to college and change your life for the better.
5. Find a Healthy Balance
At 30, you’re probably juggling challenges in your daily life with family responsibilities. Adding school to the mix can take a toll, and you’ll need strong time management skills to get through. Plan out how you’ll achieve your personal goals. You may not have to enroll in physical classes. Many colleges offer online classes, which can help you have a better work-life balance.
Alternatives to College for 30-Year-Olds
The cost of college and the time it takes to earn a degree are why many people are discouraged from going back. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives to college that can help adult learners further educate themselves without spending thousands of dollars. This section below highlights some alternatives to college for people 30 years and above.
Coding bootcamps are an increasingly popular option for those wanting to pursue a career in the tech or design industry. Bootcamps typically only last for a couple of months, after which students get a certificate showing that they have received the necessary training. Bootcamps often offer both online or in-person programs delivered full-time or part-time.
Pros of Bootcamps
- Certificates. After completing a bootcamp, you will get a certificate recognized by most companies you might apply to.
- Time. Bootcamps take much less time to complete than college degrees. Theories and practices that take years to learn in college are packed into a few months of hands-on training.
- Industry-ready. At the end of a bootcamp, participants will have the necessary skills to enter the job market and make a place for themselves. Bootcamps teach specific high-demand skills and prepare their students for entry-level positions.
Cons of Bootcamps
- Cost. Although less expensive than college tuition, bootcamps can still cost quite a bit. The price of a bootcamp will depend on the location and nature of the program, but know that in-person bootcamps tend to cost more than online programs.
- Financial Options. The price of a bootcamp may not be affordable for some people. In normal circumstances, students will apply for federal aid or loans. However, you can’t get federal aid or loans for coding bootcamps.
- Reputation. There is no central body that regulates coding bootcamps. You’ll have to do your research to find out which bootcamps are right for you. You can check reviews online, look at websites, or get direct feedback from the bootcamp’s alumni.
Thanks to technology, you can get a degree without ever having to step foot on campus. Several accredited schools are offering online degrees in fields like education or business. The length of these programs depends on the degree you are pursuing, but often takes significantly less time than if you were in college.
Pros of Online Classes
- Self-paced Learning. Many online college programs offer a self-paced learning curriculum, meaning that you can learn the new skills at your own pace. This is especially helpful for those who wish to keep their daytime jobs while they upskill.
- Certificate. The institution issues certificates to successful candidates as proof of their skills in specific specializations.
- Speed. Online classes usually have a stipulated period for students to complete the program. If you have a lot of time on your hands, you can complete the program before this time and get your certificate faster.
Cons of Online Classes
- Lack of Networking. Physical classes allow you to meet students, lecturers, and other people in the college system. These people and the kind of relationships you build with them can help you climb the career ladder. Online classes are not as conducive to this.
- Discipline Required. While self-paced learning can be extremely beneficial, finding the motivation to keep yourself disciplined can be challenging. It’s easy to put your classes off when no one is forcing you to attend.
- Cost of college. In some cases, enrolling in an online degree program is as expensive as enrolling in a physical school. This will depend on the school offering the program, the course of study, and the location you are taking the course from.
Vocational Centers/Trade Schools
A vocational center or trade school is great if you want to learn a particular skill or trade. If you want to work as an automobile mechanic, you don’t have to spend years studying engineering when you can spend time at a vocational center and learn the skills you need faster. Culinary schools are an excellent option for people who want to become chefs.
Pros of Vocational Centers/Trade Schools
- Speed. If your goal is to specialize in a skill, a vocational center will give you the on-the-job training you need. You will be introduced to the field, and you can skip all the extra fluff you’d need to take in college.
- Straightforward Learning. When you are in a vocational school, you won’t have to take elective courses. Everything you will learn will be related to your career path.
- Networking Opportunities. In a vocational school, you will meet people in your industry, making it easier to find job opportunities.
Cons of Vocational Centers/Trade Schools
- Price. Vocational centers are great alternatives to college. That being said, they are the most expensive of these alternatives. To pay for these programs, students often need to seek loans, which can be challenging to repay after the program.
- Limited Career Growth. The certificates issued in vocational centers aren’t as respected as college degrees. You may not be able to progress as fast as you want, and your colleagues who went through college may surpass you.
- Earning Potential. Attending a vocational center and learning a skilled trade only qualifies you for specific jobs. With your vocational center certificate, there is a limit to the kind of jobs you can apply for and, as such, your maximum potential salary will be limited.
Should You Go Back to School at 30?
Yes, you should go back to school at 30 if you want to. A degree improves your employability and qualifies you for higher pay. Four-year universities like Brown University or Clarion University have online university programs where you can earn a business degree or a degree in nursing, for example. There are plenty of alternatives to college if you are seeking more specific skills.
Going Back to College at 30 FAQ
Yes, going to college is worth it. The average wage of professionals holding a bachelor’s degree or higher is much more than that of professionals who only have a high school diploma.
Yes, you can go to college and avoid debt if you qualify for financial aid or scholarships. While not many scholarships offer a full ride, there is no limit to the number of scholarships you can apply for and receive. In addition, government financial aid can significantly or fully cover the cost of your college degree program.
Yes, there are other alternatives to college. You can start a business, join the military, or take special courses through a bootcamp or vocational school to train yourself in a particular skill.
The best college degree to have depends on your interests. While some professions only require an associate or bachelor’s degree, many need their applicants to possess a master’s or doctorate degree.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.