Hitting the Books Again
Furthering your education in the middle of a career is a big decision. Career Central helps you along with the factors you need to consider and the options you have.
With the changing economy, new knowledge has to be attained to remain relevant and competitive in the jobs market. Hence there is an increased pressure to upgrade existing skills and qualifications.
Young Singaporeans are quick to catch onto that, as shown in the Statistics Singapore Newsletter (SSN) in 2000, which showed increasing enrolment in external degree programmes and postgraduate studies in local universities among Singaporean university graduates.
Private institutions also proved to be popular as they offered many part-time courses to cater mainly to working adults. According to the September 2005 issue of the SSN, 62.9% of students enrolled in 2004 were below 30 years old, 26.4% were between 30 and 40 years old and 10.7% were 40 years old and above. The trend shows that more young people view educational upgrading as pertinent.
However, the decision to further your studies cannot be taken lightly, and you should not just be jumping on the bandwagon. It is a decision that will cost you time, from a few months to a few years, and up to tens of thousands in fees, depending on your course. Consider your interests, goals, dreams, and abilities. Also, you have to assess your skills, competencies, and weaknesses before embarking on your choice of study.
There are many reasons to go back to school, including intellectual curiosity, professional advancement, or contemplating a change in career. But don’t make this decision for the wrong reasons, such as when you aren’t sure what to do and want to use this as a relaxing “time filler”. Further education requires intense commitment of time and money. If you’re not sure that you’re ready, then it’s best to wait.
On the Bright Side
That said, taking another relevant degree, or furthering studies in your current field can help you in your career by becoming more qualified or more specialised. And it may be heartening for you to know that mature students also tend to achieve better academic results than younger students. Researchers say that this is due to motivation, maturity, life and work experiences and pragmatic concerns.
Some schools also allow you to fast-track the process if you have prior experience or qualifications. According to Kimeiko Dover, who holds an M.Ed in Adult Education and writes articles on the topic, the first step is to conduct a self-assessment to take stock of your achievements and academic goals. Achievements include formal learning through school, workplace training, as well as knowledge and skills attained through life and work experience.
Then, set your academic goals by deciding which credentials you hope to secure and identify a few institutions whose programmes you’d like to explore.
Doing the Homework
There are many options for further education that you can choose from. Consider your needs, your lifestyle as well as your income. What are the qualifications that you need or want to get? How long do you want to spend on the course? Does the course duration as well as the class times fit into your lifestyle? Which course would be more suitable for your current income?
There are courses on a whole range of subjects and disciplines. Each course at each institution is unique for its programme as well as its entry requirements. They can be taken overseas, as well as in our local universities, polytechnics and private institutions. Up on offer are certifications, diplomas, advanced diplomas, Bachelor’s degrees, Masters degrees and PhDs. There are also many programme tie-ups between local and foreign educational institutions, as well as overseas degrees that you can take in Singapore.
Distance learning via the Internet is also available through local universities like NTU and PurpleTrain.com (under Informatics). They are usually carried out online and do not require physical attendance of classes.
Cost and Duration
For diploma at polytechnics, you can expect to pay more than $6,000 in total fees for a three-year course. A diploma in tourism/hospitality management for example, would cost about $6,670 and three years to complete in a local polytechnic. But at private institutions, this full-time diploma can cost a total of $2,120 to $21,840 for a six-month to two-year course. Part-time diplomas on the same discipline can go up to $9,000 for an 18-month course. All this is excluding living costs, which amounts to about $7,000 a year.
Local part-time Bachelor’s degree courses are about $55,000 for a four-year course, including living costs.
These courses can stretch from one to eight years, depending on the course and the eventual qualification obtained. Full-time undergraduate degrees at local institutions are usually three to four years and cost over $6,000 a year in course fees. Hence a four-year computer engineering Bachelor’s degree course in NTU for example, will cost an estimated $30,000, including tuition fees and other related expenses. But the cost of taking the same course in a top-rate university in USA can go above $300,000.
Local courses for Master’s degrees and PhDs usually take one to two years and can cost from $30,000 to $60,000 including living costs, depending on the course and duration. Typically, the Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) courses are one of the most expensive, as well as research programmes in Medicine and Dentistry.
Certificate programmes can last six-and-a-half months to three years at private institutions and hit over $1,000 in course fees alone. One-off courses on various topics like business, communication skills, IT and engineering that go on for one day to one week, can cost up to $1,000. Short distance learning programmes ranging from 12 hours to 60 hours cost about $130 to $1,000.
But the Masters and Bachelor degrees as well as diplomas offered online by overseas universities can cost up to $16,000 in total, and span from half a year to five years.
There are many things to take note of while planning for your further education. Get the course consultants of the schools you’ve selected to tell you what the course programme and structure is like before making any commitments.
Keep in mind that if it’s a higher income or better prospects you are looking at, not every other course will do. You have to take one that is specially catered to your interests and specialisation for it to be useful in the field that you want to pursue.
Finally, remember that further education is a big ticket purchase or investment, so weigh your options and plan your move carefully.
QUICK TIPS ON WHAT TO CONSIDER:
Why Do You Want to Further Your Education?
You need to have a clear objective of what you hope to achieve from taking the additional qualification. For example, if you want an MBA to get promoted and make more money, find out if companies really pay more for MBA graduates.
Can You Afford the Education?
You need to consider actual course costs, how you’re paying for it, as well as opportunity costs of income loss. Kevin Ng, for instance, quit his job as a Customer Service Engineer to take up a full-time Bachelor’s degree course in Business Management at SIM in January this year. The three-year course cost the 26-year-old him more than $29,000. “I managed to pay for it with my savings and some help from my parents. But I have to sacrifice my monthly pay of $1,150.”
Part-time or Full-time?
This choice is highly dependent on the amount of time and money you can spare for the course. Full-time students get to concentrate on their studies, but they need to have the income reserves as they won’t be able to work.
Sharon Lim, 30, chose to take up a part-time advanced diploma followed by a degree course in Mass Communications from MDIS back in 2002 instead. She says, “It was tiring as I had to work in the day so I could pay my school fees. However, I enjoyed the course because it’s something I’m interested in.” She had to attend classes twice a week for three hours each in the evenings, as well as fork out time to do her homework. The two courses took her about three years to complete, and cost her more than $25,000.
Which School to Enroll in?
It is crucial that you invest your time, money and education in a reputable, stable and recognised school. Do your homework, look through the different school prospectuses and ask around before making your choice.
Are You Mentally Ready to Go Back to School?
Studying life is very different from work life. You have to adjust to a life of mugging for exams and completing assignments. You also have to juggle study and family commitments, with less time and less money. So make sure you’re prepared before you take the dive.