Educational Background – Gaps

Education is a lifelong journey – some believe that when you stop learning, you stop living. When you are considering a career option, there are many resources that will outline what educational background requirements are for that job. There are many online resources such as Career Cruising or WorkBC that you can access from educational and employment centres at no cost to you. Check the education or qualifications section to see what minimum requirements are needed.

On certain occasions, you may already have enough work experience and transferable skills to avoid going back to a full-time formal program, or may be able to pursue a different training option based on your experience. In other situations, you may require a full certificate, diploma or degree for which there is no substitute. For any career choice, confirm the educational requirement by talking to someone directly in the field by conducting an information meeting once you have done your own research. One of biggest fallacies today is that you need a university degree to get the best career. Some of the greatest paying opportunities or highest opportunity areas in BC’s labour market require a college or trade certificate – so before you go back to school, consider what specific training will truly enhance your ability to pursue your career choice.

If you are considering going back to school, there are a number of questions you should ask yourself first:

  • Do you know that there is a gap in your educational background? Is this valid?
  • What do you hope to achieve by going to school? A promotion, better job, new employer? What are the alternatives?

Can you afford to go back to school? Can you afford not to? Are there alternative methods to pay for school, such as through your current employer or through grants/scholarships?

When is the best time to go back to school? Should you start next month, or delay six months, or need a long term plan?

Do you have family support? If not, what steps do you need to put in place?

If you determine that you have an educational gap, and going back to school is the best option, you may want to establish a learning plan. You can talk to an educational advisor at an educational institution or talk to a career development practitioner to devise a plan.

Educational Background in Career: A True Story

A mid-career professional had pursued a BA in Education and Business, but found that she preferred working in a consultative role. She worked for a large consulting firm for a number of years, but over time realized that her personal life was taking a toll. She knew she had an extensive educational background, but wanted to move from a management and consulting role into human resources. Using her network, she contacted people she knew well and let them know she was interested in finding work closer to home. A previous colleague co-constructed a job for her based on her attitude and skills, knowing she would be an asset to the team. She had to take a significant pay cut, but the change was worth it. She didn’t need to pursue human resources training beforehand, as she had extensive business knowledge and was able to show it, along with having a successful consulting relationship. Her training was supported on the job with a training and growth plan.

Educational Background Assessments

If you are considering pursuing education at the college or university level, you may want to assess your academic readiness – some institutions may require that you do this before you are accepted into a program. This readiness checklist is a great guide to helping you think through a number of additional important questions. You might also want to know your learning style so that you can make a choice that best fits your style.

If you have made the choice to go back to school, here are some considerations to make:

  • Determine what is right for you: location, cost, length of program, style of class, class size, school setting, teaching credentials, program reputation, extracurricular activities, and any other factors important to you
  • Make sure your school is accredited – public universities and colleges in BC are accredited, and only consider private schools that are PCTIA approved.
  • Spend time researching the school and program of interest, and be open minded to ensure you consider the programs that have the best reputations and have the greatest chance of helping you reach your career goal.
  • One of the steps that many people forget to make is to talk to an independent financial planner to make sure that your education plan makes sense from a career, life, and financial sense. Their practical advice can help you pursue a goal with a pragmatic timeframe, while keeping you grounded.