Your Guide to Continuing Education and Online Learning

Who says you have to stop learning after college? Continuing your education is a great tool for professional development and can help you excel in your current job or build your skill set for a new position. Still, even for the most driven among us, 40+ hour work weeks, friends and partners, side hustles, and hobbies make it hard to maintain momentum when it comes to learning post-graduation.

Don’t worry, we have you covered! Behold, your guide to postgrad education, plus some advice on choosing the right option for you.

 

In-Person Classes

For some, the best way to pursue postgrad education is through formal, in-person classes. This includes continuing education programs at nearby universities or enrolling in a community college or trade school. Classes might include the more-traditional coursework (think marketing or accounting) or a creative outlet, like ceramics, photography, or poetry writing. Go the traditional route if you’re looking to boost your resume; creative, if you want to learn something new while establishing a work-life balance.

 

Pro

 

In-person classes offer the opportunity to meet new people and build relationships (hello, networking!), direct access to a knowledgeable professor in a topic you’re interested in, and accountability to keep up with the workload. Courses from companies like General Assembly are great options; depending on where you live, you could check out courses at UCLA Extension (Los Angeles), Open Campus at the New School (New York), or DePaul University and SAIC (Chicago).

 

Con

 

In-person classes carry a higher price point, and you might not have proximity to accredited universities or community colleges/trade schools.

 

 

Online Courses

Most universities offer online courses geared toward postgrads with options ranging from master’s degrees to certificates (be sure to check out the Everygirl’s courses). Online courses are ideal for those in career transition who need to fill skill gaps before changing industries. Because they’re accessible from anywhere, online courses are also a great option if you don’t live in a major city.

 

Pro

 

Accessibility, hands down. Also, because you’re learning from a professor or expert in a field, you’ll receive a higher level of quality learning than other online learning opportunities. Check out art and design courses at Open Campus at the New School, Hubspot Academy for marketing-related courses, and Codecademy for web-related courses.

 

Con

 

Again, the cost can be high, sometimes as much as an in-person course but without the engagement some may find valuable.  

 

READ: 10 Affordable Online Courses You Should Take to Boost Your Career

 

 

Professional Conferences

Attending a professional conference on a topic is THE way to pack a lot of valuable education into a short amount of time. It’s also a great opportunity to network with others in your field or in a field you’re looking to break into. Consider this option both for professional development in your current role and when you’re interested in changing jobs or careers.

 

Pro

 

Time! Professional conferences can be a little exhausting, but the opportunity to learn from industry authorities (and maybe explore a new city in your downtime!) for a few days can’t be beaten. The networking possibilities also make professional conferences ideal for the career-loving extrovert. Create & Cultivate and South by Southwest Conference are large venues; smaller conferences, like Content Jam in Chicago, are still packed with great takeaways.

 

 

Con

 

The cost of attending a professional conference (especially if there’s travel involved) can be steep. The good news is that some companies may reimburse you all or some of the cost for this kind of professional development — you won’t know until you ask.

 

 

Free Videos

Fact: There’s a video on how to do just about anything on YouTube. For the self-motivated among us who want to learn something new but don’t know what exactly, starting here isn’t a bad idea.

 

Pro

 

The content is totally free and expansive. Check out the TED channel on YouTube or peruse the Creative Mornings archive. Lynda.com also has a sizeable library of free tutorials.

 

Con

 

You have to be ready to do some digging to find someone who really knows what they’re talking about. But once you do, the videos are super-useful, especially if you need help with a specific area of what you’re trying to learn (for example, a video on how to use the pathfinder tool is helpful as you’re learning Adobe Illustrator).

 

 

Educational Books

If you love to read as much as I do, there’s a book or blog post on pretty much every subject you can think of. Educational or self-help books might not be the first thought that comes to mind for continuing education, but you can’t go wrong with the convenience (read at your own pace!), low commitment (nominal cost or dust off your old library card, and your book is free!), and general zen that reading a good book provides. They’re ideal for commuters and those just starting to learn about a new topic. Books that have influenced my own professional development include The Myth of the Nice Girl and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (see what I mean about the wide range of educational content out there?). Start with Why and Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? are also great reads.

 

Pro

 

Learning can be done anywhere — before bed, on a lazy Sunday morning, with an audiobook on your commute to work. Books are also an inexpensive way to start exploring an unfamiliar topic.

 

Con

 

Zero accountability — how many times have you bought a book to read only to watch it collect dust on your desk?

 

 

Are you thinking about postgrad education? What options have you tried? Tell us in the comments!

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