Why it’s never too late to go back to college

April 25, 2023 · 3 min read · By ASU Online
Pursuing higher education later in life can improve your chances as a job candidate. Combining education with work experience is a powerful addition to any resume.
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Music star Megan Thee Stallion received her degree in health administration the same year she won three Grammys. Former Pittsburgh Steeler Myron Rolle went back to school to become a neurosurgeon. And director Steven Spielberg finally finished his degree at California State University, Long Beach, 34 years after he originally enrolled.

They’re prime examples of success, and prime examples of why it’s never too late to go back to school, even if you’ve already taken steps in a different career.

 

Going to school in your 20s and later can be an advantage

It’s easy to think that if you don’t follow the traditional path through higher education — straight from high school or a gap year to a four-year university — that you’ve missed the boat. The people looking to hire you say otherwise.

Pursuing higher education later in life can actually improve your chances as a job candidate. In a survey of more than 2,000 hiring managers, recruiters and team members, people said they were more likely to have an improved perception of a candidate if they got a degree between ages 25 and 44 than at any other age range. That means when it comes to landing the job you want, you might be better off going to school after you’ve had a little life experience, as opposed to entering college at age 18.

The survey, The Value of Higher Education Today, was conducted by ASU Online in partnership with Walr. It revealed this positive perception was particularly true in STEM-adjacent fields; specifically computers, information technology, math, engineering and architecture.

Regardless of field, the image of students older than 24 holds true. While job candidates between 25 and 44 had the most positive perception, 58% of survey respondents said that applicants between ages 45 and 54 got a boost from earning a degree at that age, and 61% of respondents said that for workers ages 55 and above, getting a degree later in life had a positive or neutral impact on how they would be perceived as a candidate.

 

Education is a boost, not a magic bullet

None of this is to say that job experience isn’t helpful. It’s just that experience alone isn’t enough to make your resume stand out. To wit, 83% of respondents to the ASU Online survey said that level of education was important when deciding who to interview, a figure somewhat higher than the 79% of respondents who said that years of experience was an important factor. 

Of course, neither education nor job experience is the only factor hiring managers take into consideration. On the positive end for older workers, people who are more seasoned are perceived as being particularly strong in terms of conscientiousness, organizational citizenship and crystallized intelligence. 

On the less encouraging end of the spectrum, age bias does exist in the workplace, as do other forms of bias, such as discrimination based on gender, race and ethnicity, class, body size, physical limitations and other disabilities. Many of these forms of discrimination are prohibited by law, including age bias.

 

Interested in getting a degree a little later in life? Start here

Whether you’re transferring credits from a college stint you abandoned because you weren’t ready or trying out higher education for the first time, rest assured that if you enroll at age 25, 35 or even 55, you’re not the odd person out. In fact, you’re exactly where you should be.

Check out the articles below for more information about heading to college later in life.


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