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Further your education, improve your life

By Sarah Reid
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Image: Getty Images

Study checklist

  1. Address your motivations for embarking on a course of study.
  2. Find out which method of study suits your lifestyle.
  3. Consider market reputation and legitimacy of institutions/courses.
  4. Research a range of providers to find one that ticks all the right boxes.
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Stuck in a rut? Whether you're looking to develop your job skills, score a promotion, improve your well-being or forge a new career, higher learning can provide a world of opportunity; or at least expand your horizons. The tough part: learning how to go about it. Here's the important things to consider before buying your text books.

Choosing a provider

Your choice depends entirely on what your ambitions are for undertaking study in the first place. If you wish to move into a field requiring a degree, a university course would be your best option. But if you want to learn the skills necessary to start your own business, a short course (for example, web design) at a private company may suit you better. Here's a quick rundown of what education providers can offer you:

Universities

  • Undergraduate courses (degrees)
  • Diplomas
  • Advanced diplomas
  • Associate degrees
  • Bachelor degrees
  • Graduate certificates
  • Graduate diplomas
  • Master degrees
  • Doctoral degrees

TAFE institutes

  • Graduate diploma (or vocational graduate diploma)
  • Graduate certificate (or vocational graduate certificate)
  • Advanced diploma
  • Diploma
  • Certificate I-IV
  • Statement of attainment

Private education and training institutions

  • Non-accredited short courses
  • Accredited courses (usually short courses), including higher education or VET courses

Study options

Course structures in all institutions are continually becoming more flexible. Below are the four most common course/study types.

Distance (correspondence) education
Pros: The flexibility to set your own 'class time', no travel time/costs to factor in, places are unlimited, cheaper than studying on-campus and you can mix and match units to meet your career needs. Cons: Missing out on face-to-face interaction with lecturers or other students, and procrastinator-types may find it difficult to schedule study time.

In-class courses
Pros: Lecturers are on-hand to explain everything, and you may have better access to study resources and facilities, such as counselors and lawyers. Cons: Classes may interfere with work/family commitments, and travel time and costs may be a burden.

Short courses
Pros: Fast results, in a short amount of time. Cons: By spending such a short time (say, one to two days) cramming, you may find it difficult to retain the information. And there will never be enough time to explore subject matter in depth. Also, you will usually be required to pay upfront.

Flexible study programs
Pros: The flexibility to plan study around work/personal life. Cons: The freedom may tempt you to unnecessarily prolong the course, and opting to study in block periods can be highly stressful. Similarly, online study may be frustrating if technical difficulties occur.

Will your qualification cut it?

Much like choosing a provider, you must research whether the course you undertake will supply you with the knowledge or certification necessary to further your career (or improve your quality of life). If you're studying, say, time management, to help you plan your workdays more effectively, accreditation may not be a priority. But if you're undertaking a course with the intention to secure a pay rise or promotion, you'll probably need a particular type of certification. Accredited courses are displayed on the relevant state or territory Register of Accredited Courses, and you can also check the Australian Qualifications Framework website: www.aqf.edu.au/register.htm.

Secondly, research the market reputation of your course. If you aspire to be a beauty therapist, for example, your career prospects will be better if you undertake a course at a well-known, reputable company in the beauty industry. Likewise, if you're pursuing in a career in law, you will be looked more highly upon if you studied at a university 'known' for its law curriculum. Consider also, that your method of study may also impact your career prospects. For example, there is often a stigma attached to distance education, in that it doesn't offer students much practical experience. For example, if you were studying journalism in a remote area, you would have little opportunity to experiment with television or broadcast equipment, or be able to conduct face-to-face interviews for stories, which may hamper your ability to find work, or to be taken seriously as a journalist.

Whether it opens your eyes to a more fulfilling career choice or simply helps you to perform your current job more effectively, further education is a worthwhile investment in your career, not to mention your well-being.


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