The global skills shortage is one of the worldwide employers’ biggest crises. By 2030, more than 85 million jobs could be vacant because there aren’t enough candidates with the right skills. That amounts to $8.5 trillion in unrealized revenue in dollars and cents. For ambitious workers like yourself, this skills gap presents an enticing opportunity. There’s never been a better time to sharpen your technical capabilities and become the candidate companies are competing to hire. You can accomplish this by pursuing continuing education. Here we talk about the many benefits of continuing education.
What is continuing education?
Continuing education is a type of post-secondary education that enhances a person’s skills relevant to their work. It’s typically completed by people who have already earned one or more degrees and who are part of the workforce.
Continuing education can take many forms, including returning to school for another degree or specialized coursework in a certain area. Here are some examples of continuing education:
- Getting your master’s degree
- Getting a second bachelor’s degree in a different area of focus
- Obtaining a professional certification
- Participating in a corporate training program
- Learning a new language
- Taking an online course on a platform like Coursera
While many different types of learning fall under the umbrella of continuing education, they all share the common trait of advancing your skills to obtain better career opportunities.
Continuing education vs. professional development
Continuing education is a type of professional development, but professional development is a broader term. It covers many different types of learning, formal and informal, structured and unstructured. Professional development may include conferences, seminars, webinars, mentorships, volunteering, and more.
Continuing education is a more specific category of learning which takes a structured form and is done in a formal environment, usually in conjunction with an academic institution or professional organization.
Benefits of continuing education
1. Learn about industry advancements
From technological advances to workplace culture-shifting norms, the professional landscape is evolving faster than ever. Continuing education can help you keep pace with the changes and stay informed about current best practices, new ways of doing things, innovative strategies for accomplishing business goals, and more.
2. Gain experience with new technology
Higher education institutions are home to cutting-edge technology, oftentimes more advanced than what’s being used in the workplace. Continuing education programs allow you to get your hands on the latest devices, software, and scientific tools–an experience that makes a valuable addition to your resume.
3. Hone your technical skills
Hiring managers cite a lack of technical skills as the number one challenge they face when recruiting new talent. If you come to the table armed with a brand new professional certification or a fresh academic degree, you’ll be a very appealing candidate in the eyes of prospective employers.
4. Demonstrate your commitment
Not only does continuing education make you a more compelling candidate in terms of your technical skills, it also shows that you’re committed to your profession. Ongoing learning takes time and usually costs money. By pursuing it, you demonstrate an investment in your career that employers will find valuable.
5. Access more career options
A high school diploma or equivalent is a minimum requirement for most jobs, but having a bachelor’s or master’s degree will greatly increase your available openings.
Many companies use automated applicant screening systems that won’t let your application through to a human if you don’t meet the education requirements. Every additional degree or credential you obtain helps you check another box in the eyes of employers and their recruiting tools.
6. Increase your earning potential
Returning to school is a major decision but could pay off handsomely in higher lifetime earnings.
Bachelor’s degree holders earn approximately 40% more than people with an associate’s degree. If you have a master’s degree, your average projected earnings jump another 20% from those with a bachelor’s. And doctorate degree holders (those with a Ph.D. or professional doctorate) earn an average salary that’s close to six figures.
So, it’s easy to see how a higher degree will grow your earnings exponentially throughout your career.
7. Build valuable professional connections
If you were a traditional college student, you probably spent your time in school paying more attention to building social relationships than connections that would benefit your hypothetical future career. But in a continuous learning environment, you’re surrounded by like-minded people who are there for professional reasons. This presents an invaluable opportunity to network and establish relationships that will open doors for you in the future.
Learn how to make lasting connections with this step-by-step guide on how to network.
8. Stay abreast of career opportunities
It’s an old adage: “It’s not what you know, but who you know that matters.” There’s definitely truth to this statement since anywhere between 30 to 50% of people land a job from a referral.
Continuing education puts you in the same circles as the movers and shakers of your field, which increases the likelihood you’ll be first to hear about new job openings and other lucrative career opportunities.
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9. Become a stronger job candidate
Another benefit of continuing education is improving your with skills and experiences that look great on your resume. It can also make you a better interviewer. When you feel confident that your skills are top-notch, you can sell yourself more effectively to hiring managers, which is key to a successful job interview.
10. Reignite your passion
It’s normal to go through professional slumps when you feel less than enthusiastic about showing up to work each day. While some might conclude that it’s time for a career change, it might just mean you need something to kick-start a renewed interest in your field.
Continuing education offers the chance to break out of your normal 9-to-5 box and gain a fresh perspective. Exposure to new ideas can do wonders for your motivation and remind you why you decided to pursue your profession in the first place.
11. Set new goals
When you’re around the same people following the same routine every day, it’s easy to become complacent. Continuing education puts you in contact with thought leaders and forward-thinking peers in your industry, which can help drive you toward new professional goals.
Need help creating goals? Learn how to set career goals in this post!
12. Keep your mind sharp
The human mind loves novelty. Little things like doing a crossword puzzle or taking a different route to work spark neural connections that strengthen the brain. Immersing yourself in new ideas via a continued education program helps you exercise your brain’s creative side in a way you might not get to do that often during your normal job.
13. Increase your visibility
Participating in a continuing education program makes you more visible in your field. You’ll be recognizable to your educators and peers and establish a reputation as someone invested in maintaining cutting-edge skills.
Ongoing learning is an essential ingredient to a long and successful career. In addition to gaining valuable technical skills, it’s a pursuit that can help you feel more engaged with your job and fulfilled professionally and personally.