Starting a new career can be a very scary and intimidating experience, but career change scholarships can make the process far more affordable.
College and Career Planning
People change careers for a number of reasons. The three most common reasons career counselors cite that people decide to change jobs include:
- Involuntary layoff or termination
- Seeking a larger salary
- Can't get along with co-workers
- Incompatible with the boss
- Major life change (divorce, spouse changes job, etc.)
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers between the ages of 18 and 34 change jobs an average of 10 times. When this change is forced by a termination or layoff, often a worker will simply make a lateral change, and no new skills or training are needed. However, the more common scenario is when a worker desires greater pay or more responsibility. In order to reach that goal, additional education is required.
The drawback to going back to school before you change careers is that while you are attending classes, you can't work. Additionally, you will be held responsible for all of the costs that you incur while attending classes, including books, materials, and credits. These costs can add up fast. Unless you already work for an employer that pays for your education, you will need a way to cover those financial responsibilities. This is where career change scholarships can help.
Financial Help from Career Change Scholarships
Just because you are an adult student returning to school doesn't mean that the process is a whole lot different. Just like all other college students, the first step you should take is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). By submitting your information via the FAFSA, you will receive any federal grants, work-study programs, tuition-assistance programs, or low-interest loans that you qualify for. While this is the first important step, it isn't the only step. While the FAFSA will determine your federal eligibility for these programs, it will not tell you whether you qualify for private or state career change scholarships.
Check with Private Sources
Every college and university is different. Some offer unique scholarships for students who fit particular profiles. Many times simply filling out an application to attend that particular school will automatically serve as your application for those forms of financial assistance. However, don't assume that this is the case. Check with your the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend. Ask whether they have scholarship programs specifically for "continuing education" students, and how to apply.
Other private scholarship sources include:
- Your local library
- Your current employer
- Organizations, churches and clubs in your town
Scholarships for Re-entry Students is a book listing volumes of scholarship resources, which you can either download or order by mail.
Check with State and Public Sources
Don't forget to check with the Department of Education within your own state. Many state governments put together their own collection of scholarships for state residents, so the state can be a very valuable source for financial assistance.
The U.S. Department of Labor provides a free scholarship search tool that will help you locate scholarships based on keywords that describe your particular circumstances. For example, if you are going back to school for a career in nursing, simply type in "nursing" as a key word, and search for any scholarships that do not require "undergrad status" as a requirement.
Additional public sources for scholarships include:
- Department of Veterans Affairs or Disabled American Veterans: If you are a U.S. Veteran, this is the first place you should check to see if there are scholarships available for you.
- Americorps: Did you know that anyone who serves a complete term in the Americorp can earn a "Segal Americorps Education Award" of $4,725? It's true!
- The National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Indian Health Service: These organizations provide scholarships to health professionals.
Join the Military
While it may sound like a drastic suggestion, depending on your life circumstances, the military might be a viable option. Whether you choose the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines, you will discover some impressive tuition assistance programs within any branch of the military. If you are single, or have a family that doesn't mind moving often, the military may be one of the most valuable sources of financial assistance for school. In addition to having your tuition paid for, you may actually discover that you prefer the military, and continue to develop a career there.
Whenever you search for career change scholarships, it's important to be very careful when paying for information. There are a large number of scam offers that provide students with outdated information at an inflated price.
It is usually best to stick to free sources for scholarship information such as library scholarship guides, the Department of Education, and any local or state private organizations that you can contact. Through those sources, you should have no problem finding enough financial assistance to help you go back to school without falling deeply into debt.
Additional LoveToKnow Resources
For more tips on changing careers, visit LoveToKnow Jobs and Careers.