Going back to school advice...

I need some.

Here are my issues.

  1. I work full-time. I may be able to work something out with my employer or switch to part-time. Money will be tight, we are not rich but we are comfortable while both are working. Less money will cause difficulties, but I am willing to do it if in the long run I have a skillset that will serve me all my life.
  2. I will definitely have to take out loans for school.
  3. I really don’t have any ambition. I would just like to work in a company or at a job, quietly, without any dreams of being rich or being a CEO. I am willing to work hard, but I am content with small promotions and small raises.
  4. The biggest one, I think - I have no idea what I want to do, really. I know this is embarrassing but I never grew up with a very clear dream of “What I will do when I grow up.”

I wish when I was younger I had given college a miss and gone to a trade school. I am willing to do that now…but how do I know what careers will most likely have jobs? I am not asking for guarantees but one wants to know beforehand that you’ll have some likelihood of having a job.

I don’t want to be a nurse, that’s for sure. My mother was a nurse and I know what a terrible job it is - hard work all the time and no one appreciates you. Fine, but on top of that, it’s dirty work too.

There are jobs like electrician, plumber, and back in the office, IT and business admin…are these good jobs to follow?

How do I even begin to start? I spoke to the counselor at my local college but she was most unhelpful…really just trying to rush me in and out.

Lastly I have to admit I am a little embarrassed to ask. Isn’t everyone supposed to know what they want to do from Day 1? But I need to do something while I am still fairly young.

Please help me at least get started.

You’re in non-profit, right, Miks? And in the Capital region?

Also, what’s “going back to school?” Do you have a bachelor’s degree already?

Yes, yes, and no - I do not have a degree yet, for various reasons. I do have some college education under my belt but my funding got yanked before I finished and I was never able to go back.

Hmm. I was going to suggest you look at MBA programs, which have the advantage of often being available part-time/night school, so you could do it in smaller chunks that are more affordable.

That said, business administration might not be a bad idea. A lot of it would provide transferable job skills, and if you picked up a concentration in something like accounting then you’d have the ability to run a bookkeeping business out of your home if for whatever reason you become unemployed. Do look at SUNY Albany to find out if their business program can be finished at night, so you could build up your credits and then finish the whole thing by taking a leave of absence or going part time for a few semesters.

Since I don’t know how much college you already have, I’m assuming that you might still have some general courses that you need no matter what major you decide on. Stuff like humanities, literature, match, and so on.

So why not start out by taking the courses your school will require you to have, and intersperse them with some stuff you want to try out: a computer course, an accounting course, some management, and so on.

Are night classes not doable? I ask because I would be kinda skittish about quitting my job and going full time at this point in your life without having some idea of what you want.

One suggestion I can make is that if you want to try out IT stuff, don’t take some general “Using Computers in the Office” survey course. Take a beginning course in programming, or some closely related field like Information Assurance.

Best of luck to you!

Night courses are the only way. But I am hesitant to just go back to college without a clearly defined goal in mind. I just don’t have the money to dick around, I need to go straight for what I want without hesitation.

Business Admin sounds like a good bet…at least it will open doors for me that are not currently open.

If you are interested in a trade, usually there are training programs, called “apprenticeships” that are given through the Union for that trade. They usually include some combination of hands-on training and classwork. Apprenticeship programs must be approved by the Federal government, and you can find information about them

and programs particularly geared towards adult career-changers here:

Another thing you might consider is a Paralegal program – paralegals can make as much as lawyers with a lot less school, if they are good.

Another thing to consider, is taking the civil service exam for your city or state, or the federal one for work such as in the Post Office or other government agency.

Frequently asked questions about working for the US Postal Service

My very general advice is to worry less about where the jobs are, and more about what you are already good at and interested in. I only decided on my current vocation at the age of 27: it was something I hadn’t thought of doing before, but when I sat down and thought where I was going with my life, I realised that it fitted my skill-set and interests pretty well.

If that were true, I wouldn’t be in school right now! Degree number two…I’ll be nearly 31 by the time I finish, nevermind having a career (and kids, and some sort of normal adult life…!)

I really think that if you have no idea what you want to do, then committing to school just for the sake of having a degree is a bad idea. I did that the first time around, and while I had fun and learned a lot, I ended up really frustrated with the path I chose, and to a large extent, it was just a waste of time and money. I spent a lot of time researching fields and careers to sort out my interests and ended up with a very clear picture of what I want to do…and now, I’m getting the degree that will let me do that.

Talk to people. Ask them what their jobs are, what their day to day is like, what their educational backgrounds are. Sort through ideas and subjects and explore things to see if you think it’s something you’d like to do. I literally looked through course and program listings for all the universities in Montreal (I knew I’d be moving here), as well as colleges and technical training schools. I scrolled through job sites and discovered a few jobs that I didn’t even know existed (none of them come to mind right now though!)

The whole process probably took me a good two years, but as I said, I now know exactly what I want, and what I have to do to get there.

Don’t worry about being too old - as I said, I’m in my late 20s, as are a couple of my friends at school, and one former classmate (different program now so I don’t see her much) is 40, with a 2.5 year old son! It’s never too late to go back to school, and I haven’t encountered any issues with the fact that I’m older than most students.

But really, don’t bother if you don’t know what you want. It’s homework, readings, exams, stress and a ton of money for very little reward if you don’t feel you’re getting anything out of it.

Good luck! I hope you find a path that suits you!

Good for you. Blowing a lot of money on a degree without any idea why you’re getting it is a really bad idea, despite the fact that millions of college students are doing it every year. I strongly recommend that you pick up a book titled What Color is Your Parachute and go through it to get some idea of what you’re looking to do. That’ll give you a much clearer idea of whether college is right for you, and what to do if it is.

There should be general education requirements that would be required for any degree, so you could start with some basic courses and see what interests you. If you’re thinking of going for Business Administration, take a couple business classes and see if you actually like it. That’s what I’m currently pursuing, and I love it, but a lot of the things that interest me tend to bore others.