Life is rarely as straightforward as many people were led to believe in their early years. For most of us, living has been about trying things, changing our minds, exploring options, and experiencing some personal turbulence along the way.
It’s this bumpy, uncertain road that can make life so rich, and it leads many people to reconsider whether to change course and see what another career path has to offer.
In some cases, this can involve a return to college. Understandably, this aspect could lead to some hesitation. Education can be particularly expensive — the average cost of college in the U.S. is $35720 per year — and that might add to family commitments or other debts you’re paying off.
These aren’t figures that should necessarily deter you entirely, but it can be wise to spend a little time considering whether the career you intend to follow would make this worthwhile.
This is, of course, an entirely subjective concept. So we’re going to look at some career paths that might make the return worth it, examined through the lens of different types of return on investment you might prioritize.
For Financial Return
Financial recompense shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of your decision, but it’s certainly important to bear in mind. After all, unless you have some quite significant savings there are likely to be some student loans that you’ll be dealing with for several years after graduating. So, we’re going to first look at some career paths that can provide a financial return on your studies.
Accountancy can be a valuable option in this regard. This is because there is a consistent demand for workers with accounting degrees, and opportunities are available in a wide variety of relatively lucrative roles.
While entry-level salaries tend to be at around $40,000-$50,000, this can rise significantly with specialization and experience. Alongside the familiar staff accountant positions in businesses, you can also find success in auditing, analysis, and financial management.
Accountancy professions also provide you with insights into solid financial behavior, which can help you to better handle your student debt.
We live in an increasingly digitally dependent landscape, and those with expertise in relevant fields are also in demand. Cybersecurity is particularly attractive here, as tech-reliant industries need to ensure protection for their customers and assets.
As such, cybersecurity engineers, information security managers, and network security engineers bring in on average more than $100,000 per year, and this can rise to close to $200,000 depending on seniority, experience, and sector.
For Creative Opportunities
Your decision to shift careers may be to engage in a vocation that is more meaningful to you and allows you scope to flex your creative muscles. In which case, your college fees are more of an investment in ensuring that you have the skills and opportunities to get involved with culturally impactful projects.
Filmmaking can be a good choice in this regard. The field is varied enough — both in subject matter and roles — that you can be sure of a career filled with unique creative experiences.
While you’re in college you can start with a more general film production course, and then later specialize to train in areas that are more suited to your goals.
Screenwriting can allow you to tell the stories that are important to you — or just entertaining — through a medium that millions of people might see. Training as a director of photography (DP) gives you the chance to influence the visual direction of films, using a combination of creative and technical skills to tell the story through the lens.
Another area that is becoming more popular for creatives is entrepreneurism.
This could include selling merchandise in a traditional store, working as a muralist, even setting up an animation studio. In this case, your college experience is likely to be directed around a course that can introduce you to the basics of running a business.
This can be particularly worthwhile in ascertaining how to secure financing for your enterprise — if you’re a woman, there are quite a few business resources specific to you — helping you to understand what the challenges are, providing you with experienced tutors to consult with, and introducing your options for funding your company.
Having a good framework of this knowledge can free you up to concentrate on those all-important creative activities.
For a Work-Life Balance
Part of the problem with working a job that you don’t care about and takes up a huge amount of your day is there isn’t a chance to gain a positive work-life balance.
As such, your return to college may not simply be predicated on finances or creative opportunities, but simply getting yourself into a position where you can experience life without working yourself to death.
Libraries are nothing less than a sanctuary in a stressful world, and being a part of their operation every day can be an ideal way to achieve the balance you’re seeking.
That’s not to say that there is not a significant amount of hard work involved, but the generally regular working hours combined with a great environment can contribute to a positive lifestyle.
To become a librarian, there is generally a requirement to gain a master’s degree in library science (MLS), after which you can expect a median salary of around $59,050 per year. Though you’re unlikely to get rich this way, you are more likely to become personally and professionally enriched.
A decent work-life balance can also be achieved by becoming a freelance consultant. Your schooling is likely to revolve around qualifications that can demonstrate that you have expertise in your chosen field. However, it is much like running a business, you’ll need to plan, find clients and gain funding. That said, you can dictate your hours and be selective about your workload, contributing to greater control over the balance you’re seeking.
There are no two ways about it, going back to college can be an expensive endeavor. Finding a career path that yields high salary returns can help make the expense worthwhile.
However, it’s important to bear in mind what other elements in a career can make the investment pay off — creativity and a good work-life balance can be great drivers in going back to school.
Dan Matthews is a freelance writer with a penchant for financial wisdom and solid research. You can find him on Twitter @danielmatthews0 and LinkedIn.