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Motivation for Returning to College

written by: Mary White•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 12/7/2011

What is the motivation for adult learners returning to higher education after being out of school and in the workforce for a period of time? Not everyone decides to go back to school for the same reasons. Find out more about the reasons that adult learners choose to seek higher education.

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    Reasons Adults Go Back to School

    adult college (sxc.hu - harrykeely - Harrison Keely) A few of the reasons that adults find the motivation to go back to college are detailed below.

    Qualify for Career Advancement

    A desire for career advancement is one of the most common reasons that adults decide to go back to college. Many people leave college before graduating because they need to go to work and start earning an income. However, they often find that it's difficult to continue to move up in their careers without a college degree. When faced with the realization that promotional opportunities may be few and far between unless they earn an academic credential, many working adults choose to return to college.

    Separate from the issues faced by working adults who are not degreed, those who hold undergraduate degrees may find that the highest level employment opportunities in their fields are reserved by individuals who hold graduate level degrees. Those with ambitions of climbing the corporate ladder or pursuing a career in academia often choose to return to college to earn Master's or doctoral degrees.

    Desire for Career Change

    Many people decide to change careers after working for several years. While some career changes may be possible without seeking additional training, it's difficult or impossible to go into some professions without completing a number of college level courses or a full degree program. Whether a person who wants to change careers already has a degree or not, returning to college may be the only way to get the credentials necessary to do so. For example, individuals who want to become teachers must have a Bachelor's degree in education or a field-specific Master's degree with a teaching certificate.

    Skills Needed for Employability

    As technology advances, some career fields are becoming obsolete. Individuals who lose their jobs because the skills that they have are no longer in demand may find themselves in a position of having to return to college to get the training necessary to seek employment in a high demand career field. For example, telecommunications professionals who are not knowledgeable about computer systems and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology may have a hard time finding employment without seeking college level training in modern technology.

    Setting a Positive Example

    Adults who want to convey to their children just how important a college education really is may choose to return to school themselves as a way of setting a good example. Parents who did not graduate from college during the years immediately following high school may decide to complete an Associate or Bachelor's degree program while those who do hold degrees may choose to seek graduate level education.

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    Motivation for Adult Learners Returning to Higher Education

    Regardless of the reasons that adult learners decide to go back to school, staying focused on goal accomplishment is a key factor in higher education success.