Congratulations: After careful review, you’ve decided to change careers to a job that inspires your passion. Now all you need to do is get it.
But this raises a tricky question: You have job experience and skills, so how can you tell if they are the right ones for the career you’re transitioning into? And, if your skills aren’t quite right, then how much — and what kind — of education do you need to qualify for the positions your want?
Below, 11 members from Forbes Coaches Council offer their advice on when people should consider going back to school when they’re ready to change careers.
1. Study What The New Career’s Job Market Looks Like
Before changing careers, research the odds of transitioning to the new career you desire. How competitive is it? How realistic is it? What is the job market like for the new career? Is age a factor? Research and network with others in the field to seek advice on how to best transition into the new career. Find out what skills, education and experience the new career requires. Still want it? Do it! – Lucie Yeomans, YourCareerAlly.com and Sick Resumes
2. Go If You Need A Certification
It’s critical to realize that each of us is an awesome puzzle who may have skills to showcase from book learning, volunteer work, hobbies, studies and work history. With the right strategy, you can frequently showcase such knowledge or skill to attain a career change. However, there are many jobs that absolutely require a certification, license or technical skill you cannot attain without school. – Laura DeCarlo, Career Directors international
Do you need to go to school to change careers? In some cases, such as practicing medicine the answer is yes. If however, you want to pursue your passions, create something amazing, and not work another day in your life, you might not find much value in going back to school. A few days of journaling to find and fine tune your intentions will support you in answering that inquiry of “why am I here?” – Atta Emami, TriBeCa Consulting Group
4. Research Job Postings To See What Employers Want
For some career 180s, not having a particular skill set may prove a deal breaker. Sometimes acquiring this knowledge may mean going back to school for a year or two to earn a degree. Other times, it might require buckling down for a few months to earn a certification. Unsure? Consult job postings or engage in conversations with those currently employed in the career or job to which you aspire. – Virginia Franco, Virginia Franco Resumes
5. See If You Need To Gain Specialized Skills
Going back to school makes sense in situations when you want a specialized skill set that is needed for a specific type of job that you are interested in. These are skills that are more easily gained in school than experientially on the workforce. But skills alone are not conducive to good performance. So ensure that the school gives you opportunities to practice your skills through projects and internships. – Gia Ganesh, Gia Ganesh Coaching
6. Develop Previously Unavailable Skills And Networks
There are two key reasons to choose to go back to school when seeking a career change. The first is if you’re looking to drastically shift professions and you don’t have opportunities to learn new skills in practice. The second is for the networking potential with classmates, professors and organizations who heavily recruit from that school, which can be all be invaluable in a career shift. – Lizabeth Czepiel, Lizabeth Czepiel, LLC
7. Be In Control Of Your Career
Be in control of your career and don’t be outdated for skills. Determine your learning plan with part-time studies, full-time or day training. It has never been easier with blended learning options at all levels of post-secondary, which reduce the barriers of time, geography and costs, and increase your choices of programs, courses and flexibility. – Gayle Draper, Intentional Careers and Human Resources
8. A Return Demonstrates The Ability To Self Develop
I have worked with clients who possessed the matched competencies for leadership, but lacked the skills needed for transitioning into a new field. To become relevant in the marketplace, some clients made conscious efforts to better prepare themselves by furthering education. This resulted in a more refined candidate who demonstrated abilities to self-develop while making the client more marketable. – Sunil Harrypersad, Leading My Career Consulting
9. See If Your Employer Will Subsidize Additional Education
See if your employer will pay for or subsidize additional education. The company may require you to stay in the job for additional years to help cover the cost, but often that’s better than paying for the degree out of pocket. You can then go to school part-time and start transitioning to another career (even within the same company) without incurring crippling student debt. – Shauna C. Bryce, Bryce Legal Career Counsel
10. Weigh These Questions Before Deciding
What are the chances of getting the outcome you want once you have the qualification? What would you need to invest, including time and money? Is it worth it? Speak with others who have that qualification and the job you want. Find out what they have experienced walking the path you’re pursuing. Explore all options and ask yourself if that qualification is still worth it if you don’t get the job you want. – Sharissa Sebastian, Sharissa Sebastian – Career Success Coaching for Ambitious Women
11. Remember: Learning Should Be Continuous
“School” should have a wider definition. In today’s culture, continuing education classes, adult education programs and career-specific boot camps are excellent mediums for networking and developing specific skills for a new career path, especially while still making a living. These specialized and development-centered programs are as just as valuable as “traditional” education paths. – Jennifer Oleniczak Brown, The Engaging Educator