Pursuing Further Studies -- How to Make it Work
By Lolita Villa

If done right, taking up further studies can be beneficial for career advancement. Certainly, this will expand your skills and knowledge base and sharpen your expertise in your chosen field. And depending on what your goals are, continuing education will not only help you be more marketable in the industry, but it will also support you if you are going for a career shift.

Obstacles you need to face
While most students are only too anxious to get out of school, some prefer to continue on to a Master's program or take additional undergrad courses. But whether you decide to study now, work first, or do both, you're bound to encounter some obstacles in your path.

Depending on the nature of your studies, pursuing education will demand much of your time, money and effort. Therefore ascertain first where to focus your resources especially if you have other (possibly financial) obligations to fulfill. As a new grad with no stable income yet, there's the funding problem, unless you have a scholarship or your parents are inclined to support you in your choice.

On the other hand, if you're considering combining school and work, you might run into conflict of various persuasions. Scheduling a 9 to 5 job with classes may prove to be a headache, unless you have a flexible work schedule or you're an entrepreneur who owns his own time.

It's rare for most entry-level jobs to allow work schedule flexibility, unless you have a prior agreement with your employer, or your job requires you to take further studies. Difficulty is sure to arise if you work in service-oriented industries such as call centers, advertising companies or retail stores where hours are dictated by the demands of the customer. Some employers won't be too enthusiastic about having your focus diverted from work. These are some problems you must consider before you make a decision.

Assessing your career goal is essential
Make sure you know what your career goals are before committing yourself to heavy studies. Will your studies significantly aid your career? If you're not sure, defer your decision, or else risk wasting time and money.

Twenty-somethings who are still searching for their own niche should choose to work first. Not only to stabilize their financial footing but also to determine their career paths. Furthermore, the experience and broader perspective that is gained should prove useful in approaching advanced studies.

If you work in the academe, in the law or medical industries or are being groomed for higher management in business settings, you'll find both studying and working to be complementary activities. In other jobs, going back to school may prove to be a drag factor.

Not all careers require advanced degrees in order for you to take a step up the corporate ladder. Taking short courses that last anywhere between a few weeks to a few months, or constantly attending workshops and seminars, may be enough to keep you up to snuff in the real world.

Things to remember in choosing the right school/ program
Graduate studies gives you the option to pursue professional or academic Master's degrees.

Master of Business Administration (MBA), a professional degree, is designed for employment or advancement in a given field. Academic degrees, such as a Master of Science or Master of Arts are designed for intellectual growth. Such can be followed by Doctoral degrees, the highest possible earned academic degree. Either programs usually take two to five years to complete, depending on the student's preference or flexibility.

Where is the best place to take your program? Experts say that it's best to enroll in a school other than your alma mater (unless your college is the best place that is offering the program) to give you exposure to diverse resources and teachers from what you have been used to. On the other hand, online education may be an interesting opportunity especially for people who don't have time to go to school. Correspondence courses serve the same purpose, and as in the former, may even allow you to enroll in universities from overseas.

Finally, plan your funding for your education right. Use your scholastic records from your undergraduate studies to acquire a scholarship grant, or apply for fellowships whenever available. Try to see if your company has a tuition reimbursement or sponsorship program, especially if it was your employer's idea to get you back to school in the first place.

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