“Education is important for so many reasons. Financially, higher education increases one’s earning potential. It’s why the E3-Educate, Empower, Elevate program was created in the first place – to help women and their families achieve financial stability through livable-wage work. It’s hard to obtain that type of employment without some type of post-secondary education these days.”
“I also think education helps us become more thoughtful, well-rounded people in general. I know I’ve experienced that, and I hear many clients report the same as well. They say, “I just know more.” They understand more. They have an easier time solving problems or thinking critically about situations. I’ve often thought of education like exercise for the brain and, the more you work it, the more capacity you create to learn and grow.”
“Education is also a way to build a network. If you’re in an education or training program for something you enjoy learning about, or for a career you plan to pursue, then it’s probably safe to assume there will be other people in the classes who have the same interests or plan to work in the same field. If you take time to build relationships while getting your education, you can set yourself up to have connections in your career field after your education. And, networking is still the best way to get a job.”
“Finally, I think education and training gives people resilience. Our workforce and world overall changes so rapidly. If you have a particular skill set or special knowledge or trade, it will help you weather those changes and create a career you can manage and grow long-term.”
Do I need a 4-year degree?
No, not necessarily. When it comes to education, you need the degree or certificate or skill set that is required for your particular career goal. There are a lot of growing, good-paying jobs out there today that one can get with a short-term training or two-year degree. Others rely more on work experience or an apprenticeship. There’s a variety of options out there – it’s about finding the path that works for you.
When investigating education options, I often recommend people start with career exploration. Especially for adults pursuing education. Most women I work with tell me they don’t have a lot of time or resources to spend on education that’s not going to lead to a stable career they can raise a family on. So, I advise them to start with the career field or occupation they plan to pursue. Find one that they will enjoy in addition to providing the wages for the lifestyle they want. Then, they should look into the education and training that’s required to obtain work in that field. If that sounds like a big undertaking to do on your own – I also say, don’t fret! That’s exactly what E3 and our other services are for! To guide women through that process so they can make sound career and educational decisions.
How late is too late to get started?
Never. You will grow older and life will move on regardless of what you’re doing or not doing. So, if you’re worried about being 50 or 60 before you ever get that degree, I often say, “do you want to be a 50-year-old with the degree or without it? Because that year is coming no matter what.” That thought – while admittedly a little cheeky – usually snaps people into a new perspective on what they might want to do with their time.
I have known countless women who have gone back to school or started school for the first time at a variety of ages and after a full range of life experiences: a woman who went back and got her Master’s at 50; a woman who’s in her 80’s and working on her GED; a woman in her 40’s who’s getting a second Bachelor’s in a completely different field because she can no longer find work in her previous career; and countless women – 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and beyond from all walks of life – who are working on educational goals they have started and stopped many times before, who still want to finish.
I’ve been working at the Center for about 10 years and in all my time, I have never met someone who regretted pursuing education. It can be challenging and exhausting while you’re in it; but such an accomplishment and so personally and professionally enriching. If it’s something a woman wants to do and her heart and mind keep coming back to that goal, then I say it’s always worth it to try – to give yourself the chance.