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Going Back to School at 30: 7 Reasons Why You Should Go for It and Some Tips on How to Excel

Going back to school in your 30s to earn a certificate or degree can seem daunting, but it’s never too late to go back to school. Especially when you consider the opportunities a college degree or certificate can unlock.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that in March 2021, the unemployment rate for high school graduates with no college was 6.7% compared to a 3.7% unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree and higher. 

Also, according to the BLS, workers with graduate degrees had the lowest unemployment rates and highest earnings in 2019.

While you still might be hesitant about a significant investment of money and time to earn your degree, ultimately, earning your degree will pay off. Whether it’s a higher paying job, getting a promotion, making your resume stand out or a journey to self-improvement, here are some reasons why you should pursue higher education in your 30s and some suggestions on how to do it.


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Image provided by Justin Kerbow

Justin Kerbow is a graduate of the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona. Justin is a 15 year US Navy and Army veteran and started his bachelor’s and both his master’s programs in his 30s.

“As a military member with years of experience, I was truly worried about going back to school with most of my peers being at least a decade younger than me. I soon noticed that I had an easier time managing my course load while taking care of a family as well. Sure, I wasn’t going out to parties and sleeping in much but I was able to mentally handle the difficulties of higher academics along with the rigorous schedules universities can throw at students.” - Justin Kerbow

1. In your 30s, you’re more mature and better prepared for college-level courses.

While balancing school, work and family will be a significant time commitment; you’ll be focused and ready to achieve your goals as a mature adult. Your life experience will influence your decision-making process on what kind of degree will help you in your future career moves. 

Linda McCallister is a veteran, military spouse and mom who graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Public Health. She is the first military-affiliated student to graduate from the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health Online Undergraduate Program, using the GI Bill to fund her education. After leaving the military, Linda moved back to Sierra Vista, Arizona. She enrolled as a main campus transfer student. When the daily 90-minute commute became too much of a burden, Linda transitioned to the online BS program in fall 2017.

“Being over 30 and going back to school was a challenge with balancing home life but as long as you’re organized and stick to your schedule, you’ll be successful.” - Linda McCallister

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Image provided by Linda McCallister

2. If you’re looking for a career change, a degree could be the key.

Maybe you’re experiencing workplace dissatisfaction. Maybe you feel undervalued. Maybe you want a change. But maybe you feel limited in your growth path with your current degree. When you pursue a second degree or certificate, the rewards can often be immediate. This can include the possibility of landing a new job and earning more money. 

“While in the military, I was a human intelligence collector (interrogator) and decided to get out and go in a completely different direction. I chose public health and have never looked back.” - Linda McCallister

3. Moving up in your company.

Upskilling is always important to employers. Online and part-time programs allow you to work in your current position while training for a new one! Mention to your boss or HR department that you’re going back to school. Your company might offer a tuition reimbursement program. It’ll also demonstrate your commitment to self-improvement and career advancement. 

4. Position yourself for in-demand careers.

When you’re looking to pursue a new career path, be sure to look at degree programs and certificates that equip you with the practical skills you’ll need for an advanced technical position. Be sure to look at emerging in-demand careers and what degree programs will prepare you for those positions. 

Position yourself in a career field that intrigues and excites you. You have already taken the step or looked into going back to school. Now take the time to find the career that you will love and want to do your best in, daily.” - Justin Kerbow

5. Sharpen your skills.

Whether it’s an industry you’re looking to delve into or a particular position you’re eyeing, if a specific skill set for the work is required, not having this knowledge can hold you back from growing professionally. Learn an industry’s standard requirements by reading job postings and noting the qualifications. Whatever field you want to enter or if you wish to grow personally in your education, developing your personal, professional, and educational skills is never a bad idea. 

Online programs allow you to keep your current job while training for a new one, and more importantly, you can do it from anywhere. With some institutions, like Arizona Online, that means no out-of-state tuition!

Figure out what path is right for you. Should you pursue an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree, an undergraduate certificate or a graduate certificate?

6. Do your research on the school you choose.

Ask yourself what you want to get out of returning to school. Is a full-time or part-time program right for you? Which degree is right for your goals? And what school provides the program you want, works with your schedule, and supports your learning needs. A fully accredited school should be your priority when researching schools.

“I looked around and researched many colleges and universities. Many institutions work with veterans but even those institutions, just like employers, have different ways of making veterans feel welcomed and have a well-developed veterans resource center. A school with a great veteran resource reputation will make navigating the ins and outs of school requirements much easier, thus relieving many headaches.” - Justin Kerbow

7. Explore financial aid opportunities.

Did you know that you qualify for FAFSA even as a part-time online student? Depending on how much time and cost you can invest into your program, applying for financial aid can ease that aspect of your transition back into your education.

“Now that I am chasing a dual master’s from two different universities, the FASFA has made it possible to obtain this level of education and experience. There is a huge barrier for many who are scared or leery of using FASFA because they don’t want to pay back school loans. I would urge anyone serious about their education and career potential to look further into the FASFA program and see that it’s not as expensive nor difficult to pay back loans. Some career fields qualify for loan forgiveness after a certain amount of years served in that career field.” - Justin Kerbow