Degree Week: Top tips for making an informed decision to retrain

Are you an adult who has contemplated going back to college, or even going to college for the first time? Well you are not alone. Research commissioned by The Open University reveals that many Dutch, German and Irish adults have a wish to go back to college in an effort to, not just develop their career prospects or change career direction, but also improve their personal knowledge.

However, it’s also likely that you, just like those surveyed, have thought of a thousand excuses why such a change is impractical or beyond reach. You’ve a busy life, maybe with children and a partner who also works.

Maybe your qualifications are not exactly what you’d wish them to be and school feels a very, very long time ago. And you’re not even sure if you like the idea of studying again.

You wouldn’t be alone in thinking this way. Again, The Open University research shows that:

  • 64% of Germans feel either unsure or that they don’t have the skills required to get their dream job and 34% think that they are too old to make the move. 
  • 74% of Dutch adults feel either unsure or that they don’t have the skills required to get their dream job and 36% thinking that they are too old to make the move. 
  • 71% of Irish people feel either unsure or that they don’t have the skills required to get their dream job and 38% thinking that they are too old to make the move. 

But when that niggle persists, when you can’t stop thinking that maybe there’s something better out there for you then perhaps it’s time to give a career change some proper thought.

Here are a few tips that will help you make an informed decision about retraining:

Be informed.

In the digital world there’s an overwhelming amount of information available; some of it will be useful, some of it will be irrelevant but you need to spend time sifting through it. If you have a particular career in mind then first find out what qualifications are required and then which institutions offer the courses that you need.

Be strategic.

It’s important to plan how long it will take to retrain or gain new qualifications. Are you going to study full time or would part-time study be a more realistic fit with your existing commitments?

Remember that many courses will fit around you but each will have their expectations of how much time you should spend studying. Work out what’s feasible. Be ambitious with your planning but be sensible. Will you be able to be fit a significant number of study hours into your week? Will these need to vary each week/month?

Be advised.

Talk to someone already in the field you want to enter; unless you’re aiming for something completely outlandish then they should not be hard to find. Ask friends and family for contacts and when you find someone ask questions, find out as much as you can about their working life. Decide whether your hunch about enjoying a particular career is true. It may not be and it’s better that you find this out first before applying for a course.

Be ready to think about money.

Sound financial planning is crucial when considering retraining and we don’t mean deciding how you’d spend your dream salary. Most course providers will charge for their qualifications and it’s probably not sensible to raid your savings without a proper plan. Weigh up costs against potential benefits and be realistic about the future. It’s likely that you’ll be taking a pay-cut when starting a new job, at least to begin with, so your planning must account for this.

Be brave. Be proud.

Making a career change is a big decision but you shouldn’t let nerves stop you from making it. If you’ve done your research, if you’ve planned your time and your finances then take a deep breath and go for it. It may be daunting but it is also very exciting. You’ll be taking the first step to achieving the career you’ve always dreamt about. And that has got to feel good.

To find out more about the courses on offer at The Open University visit our Bachelor degrees and Master degrees pages. And don’t forget to keep up to date with Degree Week.

Updated 
11 August, 2015 - 18:25