If you’re someone who’s been in one career for a decade or more, changing careers by enrolling in a new degree or taking up postgraduate study might seem daunting. After all, you probably have an onslaught of responsibilities that must be catered to like children, bills and partners. However, there are several reasons that undoubtedly make it a wise decision.
First, your prior experience in an unrelated field makes you invaluable. This might feel as counterintuitive as it gets, but sometimes the unique way of thinking acquired in one field can suit another in useful ways. Stuart Firestein, a renowned neuroscience PhD from Columbia University, began his doctorate in his late thirties having had a career as a stage manager. Nature.com published his reasons for how this prior career was an advantage. Specifically, his time studying scripts sharpened his memory for organic-chemistry reactions that allowed him to be a more effective neuroscientist. In addition, becoming used to failure via a career of bearing witness to botched performances afforded him a wealth of patience. By coming from an entirely different subject area, you bring an entirely separate and valuable disposition to the field.
Second, your wisdom will likely make you an exceptional student. Having spent time in a hard-won career and successfully navigated life’s hardships, your greater respect for education and the time you put into it will give you a significant leg-up over younger students. In 2012, the Independent reported on Jacki Hughes, a woman who left school at the age of 16 and worked in a variety of rough careers before going to university in her late thirties, just like Firestein. “I was completely terrified,” she told reporter Helena Pozniak. However, she received nothing but positive feedback from her professors and went on to a successful career she enjoyed. This story serves not as a one-off exception, but the rule. If you have spent your life diligently in a career, you’re more than capable of handling university studies too.
Third, further education carries substantial health benefits, as well as career ones. A 2006 study posited that the improved thinking and decision-making patterns afforded by higher education improve life expectancy. “…The health returns to education can outweigh even the financial returns,” said David Cutler of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Going even further into postgraduate study is even better. “When it comes to a postgraduate degree, you’re really taking things to a greater depth,” Kosmas Smyrnios, a professor at RMIT told SmartCompany in March this year. “You need the breadth.” So, in addition to the boon it’d be in your career, considering further university education will do wonders to cultivate a more enlightened perception of the world and make you healthier while doing it.
With these in mind, the decision to return to university or even attend for the first time later on in life can really be worthwhile. It’ll give you stronger career prospects, a healthier life and the renewed vigour to face it.