Education: Staying on the Growing Edge
- Kevin & Kay Marie Brennfleck National Certified Career Counselors
- 2003 11 Oct
Change has become our constant companion, and requires that each of us becomes a lifelong learner. Technology has transformed how work is done, created new job opportunities, and continues to shape and mold the world in which we live, work and minister. The same technology that sometimes overwhelms us also brings tremendous opportunities. As Christians, for example, technology has brought us new ways to reach people for Christ and to grow in our Christian faith.
If you are thinking about taking college courses for professional or personal development, the exciting news is that traditional education within a classroom setting is no longer the only way to earn credits, certificates and degrees. Distance learning (also called online education) has eliminated many of the barriers to ongoing education. You can now take courses from top academic institutions via your computer. You are no longer limited by location, time, schedules or family and work commitments.
Reasons to Consider Additional Education
1) Maintaining your marketability in the workplace. Are you current in your field? Do you have the degree that is most desirable in your career area? Are you computer literate, especially in programs and applications that relate to your job and industry? Do you want to develop your leadership skills? Ongoing success and growth in your career depend upon your ongoing learning.
2) Preparing to change to a new job or field. Do you need additional education to be marketable in a new job? Do you need to update your computer skills? Computer skills will be critical for almost all jobs. One futurist has stated that a person without computer skills will not be employable by the year 2004!
3) Becoming a more knowledgeable Christian. Are you equipped to share your faith in this multi-cultural, post-Christian world? Would you like to know more about the Bible? Do you want to strengthen your knowledge and skills for lay or professional ministry? Living as "salt" and "light" in today's world is not easy. Each of us must commit to being diligent in our study of God's word and learning how to share our faith and live effectively as His disciples in a world that is often hostile to Christianity.
4) Developing the mind and gifts God has given to you. Are you feeling drawn to learn more about a particular subject or develop particular skills? Do you want to become more logical, thoughtful and/or creative in your thinking skills? Do you want to connect with others who share your interests? We have an enormous capacity to learn and grow. Pursuing our interests – and dedicating our knowledge and skills to God to use as He sees fit – makes us more passionate and interesting people. Shared interests also are a natural way to connect with people who may not know the Lord. You are God's one-of-a-kind handiwork. Become the work of art He desires you to be!
Considerations Before Enrolling in a Degree Program
Taking periodic courses is a terrific way to learn, grow and stay marketable. A degree program, however, is a significant investment of time, energy and money, and should be entered into with careful thought. When people are considering a career or job change, frequently one of their first thoughts is, "I guess I'd better go back to school!" There are many reasons people decide to earn a new degree or certificate. Some people make the decision based on the assumption that they won't be able to make a desired change without further formal education. Others, confused about what type of job they want, hope that the college course work may help them decide what career path to pursue. And, many believe that a new degree will make them more marketable in general and perhaps provide more job security.
Here are some questions to help you determine if a new degree is the right choice for you at this point in your life.
1) Why do you want to earn a new degree?
Good reason: You have a specific job target and you KNOW it requires the degree you want to pursue, or that the degree will be a great asset in the field. Example: You want to be a CPA. You have been working in the accounting field, know it is a good fit, and decide to complete your bachelor's degree.
Questionable reason: You don't like your present job and you want to do something else. You have always been interested in _____ (psychology, for example), so you decide to get a degree in it in hopes of figuring out an interesting career path. Unfortunately, there's a high likelihood you will end up with a new degree but still be confused about which career path to pursue.
Recommendation: Do some good career planning to decide on a new career direction (see articles such as “Career Master Planning” on our web site: www.ChristianCareerCenter.com). Then you can decide if education is needed, and if so, what type of education will best prepare you for the new field or job.
2) Are you sure the degree program you are considering is the best one for your particular career goal?
Oftentimes people make educational decisions based on assumptions, such as "If I want to get ahead in the business world, I need an MBA."
Recommendation: Conduct informational interviews (see our article on career exploration) with at least three people who are doing the type of work you want to get into and/or who are working in the type of organization you are targeting. Ask them what type of educational path they would recommend for the job you are targeting, what particular experiences to include in your degree program, and which schools they would recommend (and why).
3) Which schools will best meet your needs?
Would you benefit from going to a Christian school, learning from Christian professors and gaining insights on how to integrate your faith with the subject matter you are studying? Other considerations in choosing a school include the quality of the program it offers, the methods of instruction (for example, do you prefer a theoretical, experiential or combination approach in learning?), the cost, and the scheduling of courses (i.e., do they offer courses when you can take them or do they offer distance learning alternatives?).
Recommendation: Do your homework! School is a large investment of money and time! Find out which schools offer the program you want. You can use this site to research Christian schools. Distance learning programs give you many options previously unavailable. In researching distance learning courses, books like “College Degrees by Mail and Modem” by John and Mariah Bear can also be helpful. This particular book lists "100 accredited schools that offer bachelor's, master's, doctorates and law degrees by home study!" Finally, talk to professors and graduates of the program you are considering. Mentally "try on" the program to see how well it will fit your interests, learning style, schedule and expectations!
Education is a good thing! But your choice of an educational program should flow out of your career/life plan. When chosen wisely, a degree can give you a large return on your investment and help you to be a good steward of the gifts and abilities God has entrusted to you!
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