When it comes to going back to school in your 40s, the little voice inside your head telling you it’s impossible is, as little voices often are, completely wrong. No age is “too old” for enrolling in a college program. That’s as true for mid-career professionals who want to use a college degree to boost their current careers as it is for recent high school graduates.

One of the keys to success for adult learners is striking the right work-life balance. The availability of high-quality online degree programs helps in this regard, allowing students the flexibility to plan schoolwork around busy professional and personal schedules.

There are several advantages for adult learners in college. By 40, most people have specific goals for the second half of their career. They are focused on what they need to do and not easily distracted by relatively unimportant side issues. Earning a college degree allows them to concentrate on and attain those goals.

Reasons For Going Back to College

Various reasons persuade people in their 40s that it’s time to return to school. Informing their decision is partly the nature of modern working life. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average Baby Boomer held more than a dozen jobs between the age of 18 to 54.

Given those numbers from Baby Boomers, it makes sense that members of Generation X and older Millennials think about returning to school in their 40s. They have enough experience to know what they do (and do not) want to do with the rest of their working career. Many feel ready to transition into a different field or management.

The potential of increased salaries and lower unemployment chances also convince many working adults to earn a degree. The BLS tracks average wages by the level of educational attainment. Those with a master’s degree ($1,574)) or a bachelor’s degree ($1,334) earn more than those with an associate degree ($963) or some college credit but no degree ($899).

People with a master’s degree or bachelor’s degree also have lower unemployment figures (2.6 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively) than those with an associate degree (4.6 percent) or some college credit and no degree (5.5 percent).

Barriers to Going Back to School

Like any major life change, returning to school comes with challenges. While every person has their own story to tell, there are common challenges that become barriers for adult students going back to school.

Many adult students risk being their own worst enemy by defeating the idea of going back to school before they even start. One chief concern revolves around online learning, especially if they have never been a remote student before.

However, online learning provides advantages for working adults enrolling in college degree programs, especially managing school and work. They can study wherever they have an internet connection. There is no commute to school, saving time and money. Working adults can schedule classwork around professional and family schedules.

Another barrier is finding the right work-life balance, especially for students in their 40s.

How to Manage School and Work

By the time they reach their 40s, most people have spent almost two decades in the workforce and may have started a family. It can seem overwhelming to consider adding a college education to an already busy schedule. But finding a work-life balance is possible if students plan ahead.

Writing in EdTech, Daniel Johnsey, a working adult student, discussed his experience taking online college courses. Johnsey noted that asynchronous classes allow adults to take courses on their schedule. Adult students benefit by building a school schedule around existing responsibilities. He also wrote that eight-week online courses allowed him to focus more on one subject at a time.

“The positive impact a college degree could have on my personal and professional life will be well worth the work,” Johnsey wrote. 

Adult students, especially those in their 40s, succeed in school when motivated to keep going. They also benefit by staying open to new ways of thinking and learning and realizing they may become sources of inspiration for other mid-career professionals who want a change.

College students in their 40s also have some advantages over younger students:

Maturity. Students in their 40s tend to stay focused on what is important. Years of experience teach people the value of hard work and effort.

Experience. Adult learners have decades of experience, making them familiar with certain concepts and theories discussed in college courses. They also understand that applying what you learn to the job is critical for success.

Financial security. The cost of college can seem daunting to younger people, but older students typically have more money in the bank and a better handle on their finances.

Prepared for success. Adult students are better prepared both emotionally and academically for success in online college degree programs.

Self-care. Adult learners typically understand the value of self-care more than younger students, including positivity, regular exercise, and avoiding burnout.

Find the Right Work-Life Balance at NMU

NMU Global Campus is committed to helping adult students succeed, offering various certificate, undergraduate, and postgraduate degree programs. Each is available 100% online.

Students who enroll in an NMU Global Campus degree program benefit from a personalized admissions process, academic advisement services, a transfer-friendly policy, multiple start dates throughout the year for courses, and affordable online tuition.

Adult learners will quickly discover they do not get lost or left behind in the process. The personalized services NMU Global Campus offers guide adult learners throughout their time at the university, advising on course selection and keeping them on course for graduation.