The choice to make a career change—or even a just a job change—can be a tough decision, even if you’ve been thinking about it for a long time. As with any change, there is a degree of risk involved. You may wonder: What if I don’t like my new job any more than the old one? What if I can’t even find a job? What if the pay is lower than I expected? What if my new boss is a jerk? What if I’m not qualified for the new position? All of these are important to consider, but know that you have at least a degree of control over several of those questions (though we can’t help you with a grumpy boss).
If you are considering a career move, it may benefit you to take a course in the subject you’re interested in switching to. This will help you confirm whether you actually enjoy the material before you make any major life changes. In most cases, it makes the most financial sense to continue working while taking classes. Although some traditional brick-and-mortar schools may have classes available at a time that fits around your work schedule, online classes are usually the most flexible option, offering you the ability to take classes virtually anytime, anywhere.
Before you make any decisions, though, thoroughly research your desired career. You’ll want to determine what sort of classes or degree you’ll need, figure out how long a credential takes to earn, and calculate an approximate cost. Then, take it a step further and look at open job postings for positions you’d be interested in. Do they require something beyond what you found in your initial research? Specific courses may help you fill any gaps you have in skills that are required for the position.
If you don’t know what your desired career is, you can use online classes to explore your future career options. While it’s true that if you already know you want to switch from economics to accounting you’ll have an easier time knowing what classes to sign up for, not knowing where you’re going doesn’t complicate things too much. If you don’t have something specific in mind, you can take a variety of online classes to determine where your interests lie. Consider subjects related to your hobbies, interests, and strengths and consider also what you want in your future career. You can explore a subject first through a MOOC (massive open online course) before deciding whether or not to enroll through a college or university.
Once you’re settled on your desired career and have an idea of the amount of education you’ll need to attain it, it’s important that you identify an introductory class to take. You don’t want to dive in so deep that you end up underprepared for a course or have to backtrack to take prerequisites. Instead, start with something simple: Introduction to Computer Science or Programming 101 if you’re interested in pursuing a career in coding, for example. Do some research to find online programs that offer the course. (Remember, you don’t have to be living in the same town as your online institution, provided none of your required courses have an in-person component.)
It may be safest to sign up for just one course to start. Make sure that you’re taking one that fits your needs and will be worth the time and the money that you’ll spend in the long run. Read course descriptions; ask an advisor, mentor, or career counselor what classes would make you the most marketable in a new field; and read reviews of the class(es) and the professor(s). While you can always drop a class early on, it’s certainly simpler if you sign up for something useful the first time around. Once you’ve taken one class, you’ll have an idea of whether you want to carry on in the same direction. If the program is a good fit, congrats! Continue your coursework until you’ve attained the credential or skills you need to make a career change. If you don’t like the program (or the subject matter), it’s okay to start your search over and try again.
It’s important to note that taking an online class won’t only help you make a career change, but can also help you strengthen your résumé while you’re hunting for a new position. If a job posting that you’re interested in lists “required skills” or “desired skills” that you don’t have, an online class may be the way to gain proficiency. Certain computer programs and programming languages lend themselves well to online learning, and you may only need to take one class to be qualified for a position. Furthermore, listing coursework and skills that you’ve acquired recently shows hiring managers that you’re interested in professional development and self-improvement.
Taking online classes cannot guarantee that you’ll be picked up for a new position, but it certainly won’t hurt your chances. If you’re ready to make a change, but aren’t sure how to get started, doing so from behind your computer in the comfort of your home may just be the best option. For more information, learn about online classes, online degree programs, and returning to school as an adult on our main site.