If you’re thinking about going back to school at 30 but think you’re too, old–think again. You’re never too old for education, and if today’s world has taught us anything, it’s that life can change in an instant. The willingness to learn new skills, adapt, and be flexible are life-long qualities that are immensely valuable in a fast-paced workforce.
And that ever-changing workforce also means an ever-changing college population. Over time, the age of students heading back to school has steadily increased. In fact, according to EducationData.org, 9.3% of adult students enrolled in college are over the age of 30. Education is for everyone, and if you’re an adult learner 30 or older, here are some pros and cons to consider.
Pros of Going to School at 30
First things first: the pros. Every situation will be different and you need to consider your own personal circumstances in life, along with your other commitments, resources, and abilities at this stage in your life, but in general, here are some of the pros you can expect to find when going back to school at 30 or older.
Going back to school at 30 means bringing your own wealth of life and job experience into the classroom, which will enrich your learning. Additionally, whatever degree or certification you obtain will open up your door to build even more life and job experience too.
And as the APLU found in their data on college graduates, more college can quite literally enhance your life. They found that people with a bachelor’s degree are 47% more likely to have health insurance coverage and longer life expectancy. In fact, people with at least some college under their belt live an average of 7 years longer than those with no postsecondary education. Who knew, right?
Speaking of new skills, let’s talk about what comes after you gain all those valuable new skills to your resume: expanded income potential. In general, your income potential increases with advanced degrees and specialty certifications.
For instance, The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) notes that on average, people with a bachelor's degree earn around $32,000 more than those with a high school diploma alone. And those with a master’s tend to earn even more––about $12,000 higher per year than workers with a bachelor’s, according to the BLS. The average annual salary with a bachelor’s for workers over 25 is $56,000 and $68,000 for those with a master’s.
How many of us knew that drifter kid in college whose parents paid their way and yet they still flunked out because they just didn’t care? Yup, probably all of us. But that kind of pandering just doesn’t happen to adult learners because they have a clear goal in mind to stay motivated. There just isn’t time for outside distractions and of course, the fact that you’re paying your own way is pretty high motivation too.
But in all seriousness, if you’re intimidated by the thought of going back to school and worried it will be too overwhelming, the fact that you are motivated with a clear “why” for going back will be more than enough to get you through.
Cons of Going Back to School at 30
While there are clearly a lot of positives to going back to school, depending on your goals, there are also some important factors to take into consideration before making such a big decision.
It’s the (expensive) elephant in the room: going back to school can come at a very literal high price. Tuition tends to increase every single year, so there may be some serious sticker shock if the last tuition bill you saw was over a decade ago. And if you’re going for a graduate degree, it is important to consider whether a master’s degree will actually lead to a significant increase in your earnings. While the average worker with a master’s degree makes more than those with a bachelor’s, this isn’t true of every profession.
Training and development managers, for instance, tend not to make any additional income with a master’s vs. a bachelor’s degree. The BLS lists detailed breakdowns for many professions on the wage premium that earning a master’s can bring, so you’ll want to be sure that the payoff for paying off more student loans will be worth it for your individual situation.
Going back to university at age 30 is a time commitment and it may necessitate learning a lot of new skills. When was the last time you studied for a test? Do students even take notes by hand anymore? What about physical books–are those even used? Be honest with the time commitment and potential learning curve that adjusting to a new routine and schedule will entail. If you have other members of your household, that may take having a discussion about what the future will look like and how everyone’s roles might shift for a while.
Maybe you will need to hire extra childcare or maybe work out a solution to have a video of you reading the kids’ bedtime story since you’ll be in class at that time, but be clear about how your added time commitments will change any of your existing commitments.
Online Education and Adult Learners
If you do decide to make the decision to go back to school, the good news is that you have more choices than ever for attaining your educational goals. Online school is extremely prevalent and for adult learners, it may present the most realistic option to be able to go back to school.
Online school allows you to have more flexible class times, the ability to study and interact on your own time and is conducive to your life if you have other commitments, like a job or family. Some programs also allow you to do a hybrid mix of in-person and online learning, so you can choose an option that works for you.
No matter which type of education you choose, know that you are making the right choice for you as you reach for your goals in your 30s–and beyond.