Whether you're looking to skill up, or you've hit a crossroads in your career and don't know where to turn, turning to higher education may be the answer. If you're not interested in going back to school, and you're still looking for additional opportunities to build your skills, there are a world of alternatives available. Let's dig deep and explore several alternatives to a master's degree program.
Five Alternatives to a Master's Degree - And How Much They Cost
October 30, 2017
#1: Start Your Own Business
This idea is not as far-fetched as it seems: Everyone has ideas, innovation, and creativity. Managing a business allows you to explore all operational facets of a company to discover your weaknesses and strengths. Entrepreneurship is a skill that applies well to just about everything.
It's easier to take a risk when you're early in your career and your life - because you have fewer financial and family obligations. With that being said, starting your own business can become expensive, especially if you're developing a product or opening up a physical location. Freelancing and digital work come at a lower start-up cost.
#2: Take a MOOC
Dip your toes in before you dive: Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are a cost-effective way to develop new skills all on your own. Depending on the MOOC you select, it's either low-cost (less than $50 a month) or free. MOOCs offer curriculum from top-rated universities and industry professionals, so it's a great way to learn from the experts. There are several drawbacks to a completely self-taught education, however. Self-teaching is a difficult skill - so take steps to ensure you have the patience and drive to sit down and coach yourself for multiple hours per day. You'll also be missing out on the benefit of collaboration and feedback: there's no one there to correct you when you do something incorrectly.
#3: Join The Military
Joining the military and serving your country is not only a great honor - it's a way to build skills and learn where you want your future to go. While military wages are not high by any means, enlisting in the military provides you with job security, and simple living needs (such as housing, food, and insurance) are taken care of. Joining the military is free, but personal drawbacks are abundant. You'll need to be comfortable leaving home for indefinite amounts of time, and the military can quickly become a dangerous career choice depending on political landscapes.
#4: Travel or Volunteer Internationally
Pioneering the world provides a different and innovative type of education. Traveling to other countries on a budget teaches you more than just financial skills - it helps you to build your independence, communication skills, and street smarts. The popularity of abroad travel has increased in recent years, and there are also programs that focus on teaching skills in a remote setting. There are many ways to travel on a budget, but nomads need to account for emergencies while abroad. Health insurance and last-minute tickets can add up, so it's widely recommended that pioneers have between $10,000 and $15,000 in savings set aside for emergencies before embarking on their journey.
There are also opportunities to shift the focus onto someone in need. Volunteering abroad is one of the most common things that students do during a Gap Year. Two of the most common organizations are WWOF and GoEco. More often than not, you'll receive free or low-cost housing in exchange for your work - so it's beneficial for cost-wary travellers.
#5: Attend an Accelerated Learning Program
Technology is moving rapidly, and the pace of education needs to be just as rapid to meet the labor demand and fill the job gap. Accelerated learning programs are built to put students through a rigorous curriculum with the intent of landing a great job after completion. With an average cost of $11,400 and an average duration of 14.1 weeks, bootcamps are a revolutionary way to get new skills in a fraction of the time compared to a traditional form of education. While $11,400 is a large price tag, the industry recognizes the need for students to go through these programs, so financing options are available. With Skills Fund financing, students are able to manage the cost of their tuition easily and painlessly - usually paying as little as ~$70/month while in program.
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