Whether you are thinking about applying for an internal educational route, you want to learn something new or to help you alongside your current role, or if you want to embark on a new profession entirely, the below could help in you deciding what the best route is for you individually.
What type of training would suit your needs?
Once you have decided what training you would like to do, think about how you want to train. Here are some of the many options open to you:
- Part-time study while working
- Full-time study
- Free courses
- Distance study e.g. The Open University
- Work shadowing
- Internal training courses
The decision you make will depend on your location, time, family and financial commitments. In most cases, there will be a few different ways to do the same training, so it is important that you pick your preferred structure of training and the course that fits your circumstances.
In order to work out what training or study you wish to embark on, it’s important that you understand what you wish to get out of it. Is this study linked to your current role, forging a new career path, or growing within your existing area of work? If you are interested in a particular role in the future, it may be beneficial talking to someone already in that job to understand the journey they took, as there may be more than one route to achieve the same aim.
How will studying affect your life?
The decision to train or retrain is a big one, and will no doubt impact your other commitments. Here are some things you might want to do to make sure that impact is as manageable as possible:
- Support from family, friends and colleagues is important. Talk to your family about your plans, tell them what you are thinking, and keep them in the loop about things you decide to do.
- What hours of commitment per week, number of assignments and due dates, exam timetables, time away from family and any other special requirements will your course require? Before you start, think about the impact this will have on others.
- What do you need to do to prepare yourself for the change? Do you need to organise childcare, after-school care or specific support? Do you have a computer? Do you have a quiet space to study? How will you organise your space and your time?
- Not all training opportunities are free – how will you fund your course? Will you need study support?
Find someone who has undertaken similar study and might be able to help you understand more about the realities of undertaking that particular course – from what they thought of the course format, teaching styles and facilities of the education provider through to areas they found challenging, times of high demand and impact on family life etc. Not only will this help you gain a better understanding, it will also help you plan your personal life to fit around your studies.
Speak to the education provider. They will be used to talking to prospective students and should be able to answer questions relating to how the time of study is broken down, when exams may fall and are often able to give an approximate suggestion of how many hours of external study are usually required for each module/exam or assignment.
What about the costs?
Once you have decided which direction you will take with your training, consider the financial implications. Some things to think about are:
- Are you going to be taking a loss of income?
- What impact will your study have on your mortgage, rent or other financial commitments? Does your bank have flexibility around your mortgage repayments? If not, are there other banks that may suit your needs better?
- How much does the course cost? Have you researched fully and ensured there aren’t cheaper or even free providers of a similar course?
- Are you going to pay for your course with a student loan? If there are course-related costs, what are they and how will you pay for them?
- Are you eligible for a student loan?
- Are you eligible for childcare assistance?
- Might you need to alter your pattern of work to accommodate study? You might want to refer to the flexible working policy or talk through possibilities with your line manager to see what might be able to be accommodated.
Who can I talk to?
The more prepared you are before starting your training, the easier it will be. As with all life changes, just be prepared for a time of adjustment. Make sure you don’t over-commit yourself in your personal life during those first few months.
It’s important to talk to people who have undergone study or training and find out the strategies that worked for them; everyone is different so get a mixture of views on what works for people individually. Ask these same people what they are doing now, what opportunities are there for you when you finish your particular training?
Most study or training courses offer student support, mentors or coordinators whose role is to support students. Find out who they are and don’t be afraid to ask for support.
Work with a study group. This will help you stay motivated. If you are studying by distance, you will still be able to have group support by email.
Ask for support with the other commitments in your life. Are there some things that you are able to put on hold? For example, committing your time to groups, or clubs.