It’s fairly common for people to reach a point in their professional lives where they want to change careers. For some, it can be as simple as making a few phone calls; for others, it may require extensive training or further education.
One of the first things a professional should consider when they want to change careers is the steps they’ll need to take to land the new role they desire. Below, 13 members of Forbes Coaches Council discuss various scenarios where it makes good sense for a professional to consider going back to school if they feel they want to shift careers.
1. The Sector Requires Specialized Training
A professional may want to go back to school if the sector they are transitioning into requires specialized training and certifications. This training or certification may give them more credibility during their search. They may also want to go back to school if they sense that they do not have the knowledge, skills or abilities (KSAs) to be successful in this new sector. - Stacy Soria, Gladegy Consulting, LLC
2. There’s A Legal Requirement For Certification
After helping more than 575 professionals transition careers, I’ve found that most professionals do not need to go back to school to change careers. They simply need to identify and communicate their transferable skills. In my opinion, the only time a professional should consider going back to school is if there is a legal requirement for a degree or certification, such as in the fields of law and medicine. - Katie McIntyre, Career Sprout
3. You’re In A New Role Leading A Diverse Workforce
A professional should consider going back to enhance their education when they are put into a leadership position to work with an increasingly diverse workforce—they may consider taking a course on psychology. Or a coach, for example, may wish to cross over and become a therapist, so they may consider taking a course on natural language processing or other courses related to this to help deepen their clients’ healing. - Able Wanamakok, Find Your Voice Asia
4. You’re Excited About What You’ll Be Studying
Follow your passion! Find whatever gets you excited and follow that path. Life is too short to be stuck doing something that doesn’t get your heart racing (in a good way). If that means going back to school, so be it. So many people have the same education and experience. Developing a second stream of knowledge and combining it with your prior experience will put you ahead of the rest. - Robert Gauvreau, Gauvreau | Accounting Tax Law Advisory
5. You Need To Overcome A Career Technology Deficit
When you need to overcome a career technology deficit. This does not mean you have to enroll in and commit to a multi-semester, full-time program. But if you know you need to get certified or go to school because you anticipate a technology change in your field, then do it without delay. Once you embrace this mindset, it has the potential to build your confidence to obtain the training you need and advance. - John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
6. Going Back Aligns With Your Aspirations
Where do you want to see yourself in the next 10 or 20 years, and how does it align with your career or life aspirations? What things are you doing now that make you believe going back to school can be worthwhile? Are your existing challenges, skills and knowledge? What are the professional development options? How do you go about evaluating and deciding what is best? - Dennis Foo, Pu Xin ASPIRA Advisory Limited - Shanghai | Hong Kong
7. You’re Pivoting Into A Completely Different Profession
You do not have to be a 100% match for your target role. However, more education might be necessary if you are making a pivot into a completely different profession that has no skills in common with your current role, you lack experience and you do not have the required credentials. Be sure that you are passionate about your target career path when considering this level of investment of your time and money. - Erin Urban, UPPSolutions, LLC
8. You’re Seeking Something New And Fulfilling
Getting a degree or training in your newly chosen field can reduce the anxiety of the change significantly. The question really is, are you changing careers because you can’t stand the people/company you’re working for, or because you want to do something new, different and fulfilling? If it’s the former, then change your employer, not your career. If it’s the latter, then opportunities abound! - Gregg Ward, The Center for Respectful Leadership
9. You Need New Credentials Or It’s A Fun Opportunity
Continuing education is an investment of time, money and energy. It makes sense if you need new technical skills or credentials or if it’s a fun opportunity to learn, challenge yourself or meet new people. If your goal is simply changing careers, first ensure that you’re adequately communicating your transferable skills while tapping into your network to explore new professional possibilities. - Jennifer Landis-Santos, Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies
10. You Need More Hard Skills And Competencies
When you know you need more skills and competencies for the career you want, it is time to go back to school. Too many people focus on the degree or credential instead of the hard skills learned in an educational environment. When you master a new domain, your confidence will follow, and what the diploma says doesn’t matter as much. - Evan Roth, Roth Consultancy International, LLC.
11. You’re Interested In Entering An Emerging Market
Sometimes, we just need a change, and with new markets opening up, it is important that we learn about potential markets of interest and educate ourselves. Areas such as social media, cryptocurrency and e-commerce are all areas I would recommend going to school for if you want to be in those fields. Understanding the nuances of each is important for anyone heading into those careers. - Jon Dwskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience
12. You’ve Tried Out New Career Options And Like Them
Changing careers is like buying a new car. You wouldn’t buy a new car without test driving it, would you? So first, try out different career options and maybe even dirty your hands a bit to see if you like the feel of any particular job. If you do, then you can go back to a targeted school to do a focused course of study. The idea is to get well-prepared and catapult yourself into that new career. - Vinesh Sukumaran, Vinesh Sukumaran Consulting
13. Your Employer Will Pay For Continuing Education
Some companies offer to pay for continuing education as a part of their benefits package. This provides a great opportunity for employees to get support in furthering their careers and sometimes even pivoting to change careers. An example of this would be an engineer who is looking to get an MBA and transition into a commercial or leadership role. - Luke Feldmeier, Online Leadership Training - Career and Leadership Accelerator for Engineers