Considering a Career Change

By Michelle Tabler, Alaska Marketplace Development Manager

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the August issue of Torch Talk.


These days it’s common to consider going back to school in order to advance your career. Whether it’s for a bachelor’s or a graduate degree, the decision shouldn’t be made lightly. While motivations vary, many people choose to pursue higher education for potential increased earnings, to gain new skills, or to simply pursue a different career path.

Some companies offer tuition assistance for employees wishing to gain more education. This type of program is considered an investment that allows an employee to continue working while taking courses. In turn they promise to stick with their company and utilize their new found skills.

But there’s also the option of leaving the workforce to focus on school full-time. If your motivation is to increase your pay, it’s important to investigate the availability of jobs and the pay scales in the field you are considering. Generally, those with advanced degrees earn more, but that can vary depending on the type of degree and the career field. And keep in mind, some occupations won’t boost your income when compared to the cost of the degree.

Alaska Career College totes its most popular programs to be the Allied Health Programs. These include: medical assistant, phlebotomy tech, medical coding and billing and massage therapy. Jennifer Deitz, ACC owner said the courses offered at her college are designed to meet a specific need in Alaska. “Alaska Career College is attuned to the economy and the skills needed in this economy.” While the college offers additional programs in Business Administration and Human Resources, most students prefer the health industry courses.

“Because that’s where the good jobs are,” Deitz said.

The college has been BBB Accredited since 1995 and offers courses in Aircraft Dispatching, business, insurance coding and billing, medical assistant, phlebotomy technician and therapeutic massage. Going back to school can provide a unique experience that is intellectually stimulating and offers the opportunity to meet with people of different ages and backgrounds. It is a great networking opportunity for business contacts.

A friend with a BA in communications worked as a TV reporter and producer and then phased into working for nonprofits. After a while she decided to go to graduate school for a master’s degree so she could work as a consultant. She felt the graduate degree would give her more credibility and allow her to compete more successfully in the marketplace.

If you are thinking about going back to school, here are some tips to consider:

Pick the program 

What program would bring the best results. A four-year or two-year degree? You might only need a certificate program to give you that leg up.

Online or in class 

Will you be able to complete the course online or will you need to log in some classroom time? Either way, you might have to find a part– time job or leave work altogether in order to obtain your degree.

Weigh the cost 

In addition to tuition costs, also be sure to budget for books, computers, supplies for specialty classes and a laptop. Fill out the FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) if you plan to apply for financial aid and grants. There are often advantages to in-state tuition if the courses you plan to take are offered locally.

Going back to school can be highly rewarding. Just be sure to research your options carefully, take into considering the time and costs involved.