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Going Back to College After Losing a Job

U.S. employers laid-off more than 45 million workers since March – a deep economic hole that was created by the closure of thousands of offices, restaurants, stores, and schools during the pandemic. Job cuts by U.S. state and local governments whose budgets have been crushed fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and more second-wave layoffs in the private sector likely contributed to an 11th straight week of more than 1.5 million laid-off Americans seeking unemployment benefits.

Whether you’re recently dealing with unemployment, have quit a job that wasn’t a good fit, or you’ve been sending out resumes for a while, embarking on some self-improvement while stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak can be a great way to update your skills (making yourself more marketable in the job market), network with others, and start feeling productive again. Taking time for personal development could also help you once the pandemic has ended. However, be careful because you can also accumulate debt, waste your time on unnecessary courses, and even lose your unemployment benefits in the process. As people across the country struggle to cope with layoffs in a dwindling economy, many workers find that their once-desired resumes in the fiercely competitive labor market are no longer up to par. This is why an increasing number of laid-off workers are opting for online colleges in order to update their skills.

Online schools are convenient, versatile, and will provide you with an education that will drive you into a new profession or help you make progress in your current career. As online degrees continue to grow in popularity, it may be difficult to sift through the many online colleges and program options that have popped up over the past several years.

How is an online school different from a traditional school?

Online schools offer flexible schedules, which often means the classes are asynchronous or self-paced. Asynchronous means that students don’t have to be online at a specific time, but instead have a set amount of time (for example, a week) to access lectures and complete assignments. Self-paced learning offers maximum flexibility, with students completing tasks in their own time over an entire term; this means they could finish in a week if they worked diligently enough or they could take the entire year, if needed.

How is an online school similar to a traditional school?

Just like traditional school, online school is all about learning. Students still participate in classes and are assessed via exams, essays and homework. They’ll use textbooks and may form study groups with other online students, who they can interact with via their school’s online platform.

What employers think of online degrees

There used to be a lot of skepticism about the degrees online, and it used to be for good reason. Online schools cropped up right and left handing out fake degrees which made it difficult for employers to take them seriously. But many prestigious universities and colleges presently offer online degrees, and they have the accreditation to back it up.

Depending on your field, it is likely that employers are more interested in what you know than where you learned. A vital concern with online school graduates is that they may not have as many social skills as their counterparts attending campus.

The reality is that today’s online education is fairly comparable to what you’d get on campus. As long as you know the signs of a good online program and watch out for red flags (like a school without accreditation), you can take the next bold steps  towards your dream job right from home.

Accreditation and Approval

Before submitting your application (as well as application fee), check out the accreditation status of the school. If your aim is to get an academic degree (i.e. a bachelor’s, associate’s, master’s, or doctoral degree), don’t bother attending a school that isn’t accredited regionally. Some licensing boards and employers will not recognize a diploma from an online school that isn’t regionally accredited. Moreover, your credits may not transfer should you decide to switch schools or apply for an advanced degree.

When you intend to join a trade or occupation requiring professional licensing, make sure the school has approval from the applicable licensing board. For example, you can contact the real estate board of your state for a list of approved schools if you want to receive your real estate license. A diploma from an unauthorized school may look mighty nice on your wall, but next to it there will be no real estate license. Also, you might want to consider online accredited colleges and degree programs.

Consider Tuition Costs and Financial Aid

Some online colleges are more affordable than others. Ask about financial aid or college scholarship opportunities before committing to a school. State universities and community colleges generally offer low in-state tuition, while some private schools do a great job of subsidizing student costs through grants and scholarships.

Final Word

When you’re unemployed, going back to school is a tempting step and very often it’s a move in the right direction. But it’s not as simple as it sounds-or as affordable. While unemployment comes with plenty of pressures and obstacles, rushing your decision will make things worse. Whether it’s a return for an advanced degree or your first college course, don’t just hide out in higher education. Do your research, make an informed decision, and then get those top grades if the classes are right for you.

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