You’ve probably heard some alarming numbers about how often people change jobs in order to advance their career.
The story goes, “In the past, people had one job, worked there until they retired and then lived off a pension. Now, these darn Millennials are job hopping like crazy, changing careers all the time.”
While this has been shown to be based more in myth than in reality, that doesn’t mean all of us want to stick around in the same job—or even the same career—for our entire working lives. The trouble is, even when you know you need a change, it can be tough to figure out where to start.
Luckily, the resources are out there. It’s more about finding the type of continuing education that’s right for you, and then committing to following through with it.
Whether you feel like you’ve maxed out your potential in your field, or you just need more skills or credentials to keep rising through the ranks, there are plenty of options for you when it comes to continuing education.
Here are five of the best ways to get a fresh start:
It’s been almost a decade since Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) popped into existence. Originally, they were free online classes open to a much greater number of people than traditional online courses.
Eight years later, the MOOC landscape looks a lot different, but it may be even better for someone looking for an online degree or a few classes to sharpen their skills and learn something new. Many online resources like Khan Academy are still free, while others have begun placing some of their classes behind a paywall. However, there’s also been a surge in the number of actual degree programs offered by companies specializing in MOOCs like Coursera, edX, and Udacity.
The advantage here is that you can get a degree through these platforms in conjunction with an accredited university, or simply take the handful of classes that interest you.
2. Extension Schools
You might be surprised to learn how many universities have professional, or “extension,” schools available for students who are working full time. UCLA, Berkeley, Harvard, Georgetown, and Northwestern are a few of the universities around the country that offer options for full-time professionals.
These schools can be an excellent choice for gaining credentials to advance your career, in part because they’re much more flexible and understanding when it comes to students’ schedules. In some cases, classes may be entirely online, or you may have the option of on-campus classes in the evenings.
In many cases, you can complete a full degree through the professional school, but you can also get certificates in areas like financial statements, marketing, business, applied mathematics, sustainability, and many more.
3. Community Colleges
Many busy professionals, especially those who already have an undergrad degree, take a dim view of community college. It’s often thought of as a place people go before attending a four-year university, not after.
But it would be a mistake to write community college off your list of resources for continuous improvement. If you don’t live near a major university, but want to learn in a classroom setting, there’s a good chance you can find a community college nearby. Classes are relatively cheap, which means you can try various subjects to find what’s right for you. You may not wind up with a degree, but if you consider yourself a lifelong learner, then that may be beside the point.
If it’s been a while since you’ve been in school, community college is a great way to dip your toes in the water without forking over your entire paycheck. You can always get a degree from one of the extension schools I mentioned earlier once you figure out the best path forward.
4. Boot Camps
And that’s certainly an option if you’re looking for a new career path. But boot camps aren’t just for coding. There are intense short courses available for business, finance, digital marketing, and even foundational job skills.
The advantage of boot camps is that they’re shorter than even one traditional semester-long class—yet they pack in a wealth of knowledge. Generally speaking, the camps can last anywhere from two weeks to three months, but if you choose the right one, it should be more than enough time to learn what you need to begin advancing your career.
5. Curated Reading Lists
You may be sitting there thinking, “I don’t want to go back to school, I just want to learn about something new that’s relevant to what I’m doing.” I hear you. If your hectic schedule doesn’t allow for class schedules and weekly allotted times for learning, then I’d recommend you start reading.
Whatever the subject you want to learn more about, there’s a reading list out there for you. Economics, management, entrepreneurship, philosophy, self-improvement—helpful folks online have already compiled the essentials for you. All you have to do is head to the library (or a bookstore, if you’re trying to build your own library) and start reading.
It may seem a little dated compared to boot camps or online classes, but there’s a good chance that someone has already written down what you need to know. And no, it won’t show up as a credential on your resume, but if you can get in front of an interviewer, your knowledge on the subject will be readily apparent if you’ve put in the effort.