Educational Programs for Beefing Up Your Job Credentials


written by Ellen Freudenheim, MPH

If you’re thinking of changing careers, starting a business, or even shifting gears within your existing career, then you might want to head right back to school for some targeted upgrades of your skill base and credentials.

On the Job, It’s Your Job to Seek Training

Unless you’re in one of the few professions that require continuing education credits, nobody is looking over your shoulder to remind you to update your workplace skills. “Training drops off within firms as people age, as does their participation in outside job-related courses,” says Cornell economics professor Robert Hutchens, who has studied employment trends. “If a person’s skills erode as they get older, they ultimately aren’t competitive anymore.” In this fast-changing technology environment, it’s key to maintain computer literacy at a level that’s required for the positions you are seeking.

Strategic Education = Short Cuts to New Jobs

Educational programs that lead to a second career can appeal to people with diverse experience. Take, for instance, the business executive who longs to get out of the office and into a classroom, or the teacher who wants to mentor adults instead of children, and dreams of building a home-based practice as a life-coach. Both transitions will require old-fashioned coursework.

Investing time and money in a new credential can be a strategic step toward getting a new job. For instance:

  • There’s a shortage nationally of teachers, and in response many states have created fast-track teacher training programs. For information on this, contact your city or state department of education and also see Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification, a free booklet from the U.S. Department of Education “See also [Fast Track To Becoming A Teacher]”
  • In information technology, there are numerous short certificate courses in specific applications, with dozens of exams leading to specific credentials and certifications.
  • Useful professional degrees may include social work, gerontology, and accounting.
  • Individuals who are considering moving to the non-profit sector might bone up by taking courses in philanthropy, fundraising, or non-profit management.
  • And, even you’re starting a consulting business based on years of work experience, but and aren’t sure about some of the basics-like running a home based office, or accounting and taxes- then a course might not only prove helpful but downright essential to your success.

To locate courses, contact local universities, colleges, community colleges and the appropriate professional association. Many courses, including MBAs and health professions courses, can be taken partially or entirely online; see

A New Focus on Boomers

Going back to school for new job credentials is likely to be a growing trend among boomers, according to the San Francisco-based non-profit organization Civic Ventures. It recently featured ten community colleges with programs designed to help prepare baby Boomers for new careers in education, health care, and social services. “For tens of millions of baby Boomers, a new phase of life and work is opening up between the end of midlife careers and the beginning of true old age,” said Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures and the author of the book Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life. “Traditional educational offerings just won’t cut it anymore, particularly for those seeking to make a difference in their communities,” he notes.