How to Go to School If You’re Unemployed

For the unemployed, there is no better time to consider expanding future job opportunities by going back to school. Getting an Associate’s Degree, Bachelor’s Degree or Master’s Degree is an outstanding use of free time during periods of unemployment or underemployment. Some of the jobless have to take less-than-ideal temporary work during periods of unemployment just to “make ends meet.” Others are lucky enough to have family members that can carry the weight while their loved one gets back on track. In either case, there honestly is no better time to fit in some type of educational experience. According to some experts, going back to school is one of the best things an unemployed person can do during these times.

When writing for Forbes magazine online, writer Jacquelyn Smith describes a recent 2011 survey conducted by Harris Interactive. As part of this survey, thousands of Human Resource Directors and Hiring Managers were asked about what they look for in potential job candidates. According to Smith, “Sixty-one percent of the hiring managers surveyed recommended taking a class during a period of unemployment.”

Andy Teach, author of the book From Graduation to Corporation: The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time, believes that educational enrichment will pay off in the workplace: “You never stop learning in your career, so the more technical competence you have, the better. When you take a class in your field, you are also showing that you are serious about your work and that you take initiative.” Whether you are simply taking a few classes to increase your knowledge or plan to pursue a full degree, registering for college-level courses is a wise use of time while between jobs.

Choosing online courses during this time may prove to be a smart decision. By registering for online courses instead of traditional classes that take place on campus, students free themselves up to give a resounding “YES!” when and if they receive a lucrative job offer in the middle of a school semester. By choosing online courses, workers are able to accept a new position without tossing out the work they have put in to earn new college credits or to increase an existing skillset. Non-traditional distance learning allows students to finish off the semester during nights and weekends while enjoying the first weeks and months of a new job.

As with most college students, the unemployed need to consider how to fund an education. Without a reliable source of income, the unemployed are left in the same place that many young college-bound high school graduates find themselves—filled with high aspirations, but empty wallets.

There are many ways to find funding. Partially because of their unemployed status, many jobless will qualify for government funded Pell Grants that can help pay for a portion of the educational expenses. Pell Grants are basically loans that never need to be repaid. Based strictly on need, these grants can often make a huge difference to unemployed workers needing to gain access to higher education opportunities.

Additionally, student worker jobs are often made available on campus that can provide supplemental income for those who choose traditional schooling. For those who choose online courses, it is even easier—distance learning from home often allows the unemployed the flexibility to accept temporary, seasonal, or part-time night shift positions that they would not be able to accept if they had enrolled in a traditional campus-based curriculum.

Most unemployed workers have already applied for federal unemployment benefits that can help pay living expenses while they return to school. Jobless people who have not looked into applying for unemployment should know that there is no risk in doing so if they plan to also go to school. According to an article in USA Today, “Federal and state tuition aid for displaced workers entering college and vocational programs can make returning to school an appealing option: students can often continue to collect unemployment benefits.”

In a way, the real question is not “how can” the unemployed go to school. A more meaningful question is: “Why wouldn’t they want to?” Experts and corporate hiring managers all agree that the more learning and experience a potential job candidate has under his or her belt, the more attractive they become as a hire. Adding a degree or even a few semester hours earned towards one can only help to turn that so-so resume into one that shows a job candidate off as a person who is constantly seeking to improve. And that, more than anything else, impresses hiring managers.

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