Guest Post: Thinking About a Career Change? Consider Online Learning

This is a guest post.  The author, Melissa A. Venable, PhD, is a contributor to where she writes from her experience as a course designer, instructor, and career advisor in higher education. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

For working professionals, online learning can be a great way to reach new career goals. A recent study of online learners conducted by The Learning House found that almost one-third of respondents (29%) were motivated to enroll in online courses because they were “looking for a career change.” Another 46% were interesting in “advancing in their current career.”

Why Learn Online?

It’s true that online learning isn’t for everyone, but it might be a good choice for you. Here are a few of the reasons to consider the possibilities:

  • The convenience factor: The flexibility of online delivery means you can often schedule your studies around other obligations related to work and family.
  • Variety of schools and subjects: It’s not just online schools anymore. Traditional colleges and universities are also offering online programs in a wide range of academic disciplines.
  • Levels of learning: In addition to undergraduate and graduate degree programs, you will also find online certificate and licensure options, as well as continuing education courses that help fulfill professional development requirements.
  • Opportunities for exploration: If you are thinking about transitioning to a new career, but aren’t sure, taking an online class is a good way to not only find out more about an area of study, but also try out the online learning experience before committing to a full program.
  • Tech skills and more: Even if you are already using technology at work, you may use new tools for collaboration and communication in your courses that will broaden your skill set. And since your classmates will have similar interests, and likely live in locations different from yours, there are opportunities to expand your professional network.

Take a Closer Look

Adding school to an already busy schedule is a major commitment. Are you ready?  It’s important to find out if online learning options are a good fit for you and your needs before you enroll.

  • Research your field of interest. Check resources like professional associations and the Occupational Outlook Handbook to find out what employers in your new field of interest are expecting in terms of education and training.
  • Compare similar programs. Shop around and compare multiple programs that would help you meet your goals. Compare factors related to affordability, accreditation, marketability, career preparation, support services, and other considerations, such as program length.
  • Assess your skills and prepare. From time management to computer literacy, learning online is different from the traditional classroom, requiring you to be self-motivated and have the access you need to hardware, software, and the Internet. Sites like Minnesota’s provide tips and resources for becoming a successful online student.

Whether you are interested in taking a few courses or completing a full degree, online education is not only growing in popularity, but also in the options available. If career change is a priority for you, take time to find out more about how learning online can help you make the transition.

Have you used online education to help with a career change, or are you considering it?  Tell us about it!