Back-To-School for Career Chang-ers, Divorcees, and All Women

September 24, 2019

Living life to the fullest comes with calculated risks — choosing an education path, a career trajectory, a life partner. And while some decisions may feel right at one point in life, sometimes we realize that committing to forever is a long. time. What we want out of life can change with experience — and that may mean going back to school.

Whether you’re thinking about switching industries or you want to start afresh after divorce, remember that many women around you are also diving into the deep end. According to a survey of 3,500 women, 89% (!) were either seriously or potentially considering a career change

Divorced women are also exploring their career options. In a survey of 1,700 women, 11% of divorced women went back to school, 18% re-entered the workforce, 15% switched jobs, and 10% started a business.

But taking calculated risks requires just that: calculation. No matter your background, going back to school takes careful financial planning. 

So how do we do it? How do we take the next step on our education path while meeting our financial goals?

Back-to-school for the career changer: 

It all starts with the programs you’re considering and figuring out their various costs. 

To begin estimating costs, consider variables like:

  • Tuition
  • School fees (textbooks, testing fees)
  • Job-hunting costs (many of which can be tax-deductible!)
  • Fees associated with a new job (licensure, trade association membership)
  • Prospective salary increase/decrease relative to current salary, if you receive one

If the price tags on your education discourage you, consider this: the more you calculate costs up front, the less likely it’ll be that you’ll encounter any surprise costs down the road. 

Comparing costs of the available programs and career paths can also help you hone in on which program is best for you. For example, perhaps Program A is more expensive than Program B, but you estimate that your salary increase will be greater with Program A, and therefore the upfront costs are worth it to you. At the same time, maybe you prefer the career options for Program B, and therefore the salary bump you’d receive from Program A isn’t worth it to you.

It’s much easier to plan if you know the approximate cost of your career move. Rip off the band-aid, and you’ll be better off down the road. 

Back-to-school after divorce:

Much of the advice for a career changer (see above) remains true for a divorcee — calculate the costs of going back to school so you have a clear picture of what you need to pay for. 

But a divorced woman may need to juggle additional variables, like parenthood and the financial cost incurred as a result of divorce. Divorced mothers may face child care costs and saving for their children’s college tuition on top of the price of divorce.

The question is how to balance it all while pursuing your own degree. Creating a budget that includes your existing costs as well as your prospective education costs is a huge step towards a successful financial future. Building a budget will help you begin answering questions like “which do I pay off first — my credit card debt or student loan debt?” 

Divorce can be a heavy load to carry on your own. If you need help sorting through the variables and constructing a full-fledged budget, consider speaking with a financial advisor.

Calling all women: how to pay for school & find the right scholarship for you 

While some women can cover their education costs with personal savings, there are many other options available for adult women who are headed back to school, including:

  • Tax breaks 
  • Grants 
  • Scholarships
  • Continuing-education benefits offered by an employer

  • Low-interest loans

There are a number of scholarships out there dedicated to serving women who want to go back to school. No matter your relationship or working status, explore the scholarship options that are available to you. 

Here are a few great scholarship resources to help get you started:

While the internet can provide us with a wide variety of resources, don’t forget that some scholarship options may be offered in your own backyard. Local clubs and organizations, like Rotary, Kiwanis, a local religious organization, or a local sorority chapter may be good places to look.

You have the power to shape your future. But you don’t have to do it solo. 

Taking charge of your happiness and financial wellbeing takes work. Whatever your reason for going back to school, know that you are not alone and you are capable of achieving your career ambitions while meeting your financial goals. So let’s talk about how to get you there.