Adult Learner

5 Signs that now is the right time to finish your degree

February 26, 2020 by Brandman University

In today’s higher education landscape where nontraditional students have become the majority every student’s path to completing a degree is unique. Some learners power through their college courses as quickly as possible. There are other students who begin their journey toward a degree, but then pause to immediately pursue career opportunities or personal passions.

If you’ve taken a break from school, you may be wondering when it will be the right time to jump back in and earn your degree. You might be wary about whether you’re making the right decision. After all, you want the time and money you invest to be worth it in the end.

But similar to the way students’ journeys vary, the factors that inspire them will also differ. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of five motivators adult learners commonly credit for fueling their desire to return to higher education. Perhaps you’ll recognize that it’s a good time to finish your degree.

5 Signs you should go back to school

1. You can’t seem to find a job that offers adequate compensation

If you feel like you keep running into obstacles when searching for a job that can support you and your family, you’re not alone. Increasing earning potential has always been one of the top reasons adult students head back to the classroom.

While it’s true that a degree alone won’t automatically qualify you for a higher salary, there’s enough compelling evidence out there to suggest that higher educational attainment is associated with greater lifetime earnings.

Consider a study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce that reveals a bachelor’s degree-holder can expect to earn 74 percent more over their lifetime than someone with only a high school diploma. If you’re hoping to transition into a more lucrative career path, heading back to school to finish your degree could certainly help.

2. You’re not excited about the positions you qualify for in your job search

Earnings aside, it’s possible you’ve reached a point where the jobs you’re qualified for don’t interest you any longer. Maybe you’re bored or just need a change of pace — but depending on your current education level, your options may be limited.

To find out how educational attainment affects your options, we turned to the data. We used real-time job analysis software to examine more than 18 million job postings from 2019.* While high school graduates qualified for just over 7.5 million of those jobs, those numbers change as educational attainment grows:

  • Associate degree-holders qualified for 9.1 million jobs
  • Bachelor’s degree-holders qualified for 17.6 million jobs
  • Master’s degree-holders qualified for 18.4 million jobs
  • Doctoral degree-holders qualified for 18.8 million jobs

It’s clear that your job opportunities could expand significantly if you level up with an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree. Doctoral-qualified candidates don’t qualify for significantly more positions than those with a master’s degree, but educational attainment also often depends on varying industry expectations and different career paths. Additionally, the data still shows that individuals with a doctoral degree still have a slight advantage. These trends indicate that heading back to school can help you hone new skills that employers value.

3. You keep getting passed over for promotions

It can be frustrating to feel like you’re stuck in a job that has no clear path forward. It’s even more disheartening if you see some of your colleagues get promoted while you remain stagnant. The environment of every organization is different, so there’s no foolproof recipe for achieving a promotion. But if you’re eager to climb the ladder, there are a handful of things you can do.

Career development professionals recommend building positive rapport with your manager, taking on extra responsibilities and finding ways to fill skill gaps that exist at your organization. Sometimes that means going back to school. In fact, 78 percent of employers factor continuing education efforts into promotions. You may even find that your company offers education benefits you could take advantage of.

4. You crave more opportunities to develop as a leader

People can exercise their leadership skills in many different ways throughout their lives on a sports team, during group school projects and in parenting. But it can be difficult to land a managerial role if you don’t have the right credentials. One survey reports that approximately 80 percent of Millennial professionals think they have great leadership potential within their industries, yet another survey indicates that just 12 percent of them actually hold management titles.

One surefire way to stand out to managers hiring for the positions you’re interested in is to up the ante when it comes to your education. Earning a degree can simultaneously demonstrate your commitment level and your expertise. If you focus your studies on something like business, management or organizational leadership, you can further develop the skills you’d need to thrive in a leadership position.

5. You need to stay on top of your game

We live in an age when just about every industry is experiencing rapid change thanks to technology and big data. If you’ve been working in the same position for a while, you’ve likely witnessed some of this evolution firsthand.

The workforce itself has also experienced significant changes. For the first time ever, there are five generations working in America’s professional climate, ranging from Traditionalists (born in 1945 and before) to Generation Z (born in 1996 and after). In this increasingly multigenerational workforce, young professionals are entering the workplace with skills designed to meet the evolving needs of our digital landscape. The need for upskilling is greater than ever.

Heading back to the classroom is a great way to sharpen your own skills and keep up with the changing pace of your industry. Even if pursuing a degree isn’t in the cards for you right now, there are a number of other options you might consider. You could, for instance, enroll in a certificate program or take individual courses. Brandman University even has an entire School of Extended Education, which offers workshops, seminars, professional credits and webinars covering a variety of subjects to help you gain the skills you need to stay on the cutting edge of your industry.

Seize the moment

After analyzing some of the more common reasons you might go back to school to finish your degree, it’s clear that higher education can have a sizable impact on your life. Increased educational attainment can benefit your career, family and overall wellbeing.

If any of these signs point toward heading back to the college classroom, your next step is deciding how you want to learn. Find out how to pinpoint the right type of program for you by taking our quiz, What type of online learner are you?


*Source: (analysis of 18,786,094 job postings from Jan. 01, 2019 – Dec. 3


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