While the recession has officially ended, if you have been looking for a job in today’s economy you know that the job market is still pretty tough. Jobs are hard to find, and job security is generally pretty shaky, with a lot of people still getting laid off.
Believe it or not, this is actually a perfect time to go back to school and earn your degree. Going to school while jobs are scarce means that by the time the economy has improved and jobs are easier to find, you will have a shiny new degree to give you an advantage over other, non-degreed applicants.
The biggest challenge is, of course, juggling work and school during a down economy. Finding work in the current economy is often hard enough when you don’t have schedule around classes and make sure you leave enough time for homework, in addition to your family responsibilities. There are a few ways to help you get around this problem:
• Take online classes or correspondence courses. Online classes give you remarkable freedom, enabling you to work on your degree on your own time. Since you can log into your class and work on coursework at any time of the day or night, you won’t have to ask for special scheduling at work. If access to an Internet connection is a problem for you, you may be able to use the computers at the public library, or find correspondence classes that don’t depend quite as heavily on a regular Internet connection.
• Get financial assistance. There are many financial assistance programs for students. The government will give financial assistance based on need, which is judged by your household income. You may also be able to get scholarships that will help you pay for tuition and your living expenses. There are lots of scholarships available that no one claims every year, so you just have to be diligent in finding them.
• Work from home, part or full time. Working from home is another solution that makes it easier to schedule classes. This could range from working a regular part-time job and simply supplementing it with work you do from home, or getting a full-time job that lets you work from home and on your own schedule as long as you clock your hours every week. Another solution is to be your own boss: Providing child care, running errands, cleaning houses, and doing landscaping are all things you can do on a contract basis, which allows you to make your own schedule.
• Get a job through your school’s work program. Most colleges have a department that helps students find jobs and internships. The employers you find through these programs will often be much more willing to work with your school schedule than other employers. You may even be able to find a job on or around campus, which will simplify your daily commute.
Even if it takes a little financial finagling, going back to school to earn your degree is well worth your while. It’s no coincidence that college enrollment has been up the last few years, ever since the recession started: When jobs get to be difficult to find, a lot of people naturally turn to education, whether to further their existing career or to change careers. It may be tough to put yourself through school during a recession, but when you finish your degree you will be able to find better job security — and a better job — than you could have if you hadn’t gone back to school.
Katharine Swan is a freelance writer specializing in career-related topics, such as job search techniques and LVN schools. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and more than 6 years of professional writing experience.