Do You Need a Degree to Advance in Your Career?

Female employee shaking hands

So you’re ready to make a move in your career. Maybe you want to advance in your current position, get a big promotion, or switch jobs altogether. At times like these, it’s common to wonder if more schooling is the solution. 

And it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Taking classes or going back to school to get another degree can be a big commitment of time, energy, and financial resources. Will it pay off in the long run? 

Of course, it depends. Here are some important points to keep in mind as you weigh your options and plan your future.

Your target role or industry might require a degree

Before you make any moves, find out if the position you want actually requires a degree. Three popular fields in which degrees are commonly required are healthcare, IT, and finance. With all three, keep in mind that the more education you have, the higher your pay may be and the more career options you’ll have.


Due to our aging population, healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries and is predicted to remain so for years to come. Because of this, demand for healthcare workers is high, meaning salaries are higher than average and the benefits are often quite good. Educational requirements for healthcare jobs range widely. For example, within nursing, requirements can range from associate degrees (certified nursing assistant, paramedic) and bachelor degrees (bachelor of science in nursing) all the way up to masters (family nurse practitioner, neonatal clinical nurse specialist) and doctoral degrees (nurse executive, advanced nursing). 

Information Technology

Another high-demand field is information technology. The value of the tech industry in the U.S. is massive and hundreds of thousands of IT jobs are created each year. You don’t have to look far to understand why; from cybersecurity to entertainment to everyday tasks, technology is at the center of our lives. Breaking into the IT field can be a very smart career move; but keep in mind that even entry-level jobs commonly require a bachelor’s degree in programs like computer science or information systems and technology.


The world of finance is vast and diverse, offering a wide range of career options. These jobs (e.g. commercial banking, financial planner, venture capitalist, etc.) are often high-paying, even at entry level, and have unlimited potential for growth. As with IT, a four-year degree — like a BSBA with a major in finance — is a requirement for many entry-level finance positions. 

Some employers are requiring degrees when they didn’t before

In what some experts are referring to as “degree inflation,” many employers are now requiring candidates to hold four-year degrees for jobs that previously didn’t require them. While this can create a hurdle for some job-seekers, it helps employers determine which candidates have more training and up-to-date technical skills that they can put to work right away.

If we go back to our healthcare example, in the case of nursing, universities are offering more specialized and formal programs for the profession. In the last decade, a Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) has become the standard expectation. But the good news is that such degrees are more accessible due to online BSN programs that can be completed according to the student’s availability — even while working full-time. 

No matter what career you’re exploring, do some research instead of making assumptions. Search job boards, read job descriptions, talk to people in your target field. Find out what level of education is actually required — and then find online degree options that fit both your needs and lifestyle.

Certifications and classes can help you stay up-to-date

Remember that it’s not always necessary to get a whole new degree in order to advance your career. Sometimes all it takes is a few classes to learn new skills, stay up-to-date in your field, or formalize a specialty.

Online certificates are an especially good way to boost your resume. These specialized programs enable you to pick and choose the skills you want to learn in a flexible and more affordable way. 

Are you a nurse who wants to teach others? Check out the Nurse Educator online certificate. Want to advance in your technical career? Consider the Project Management online certificate. Interested in increasing your income potential in the field of business? Explore the Big Data & Business Analytics online certificate.

With the many online educational options these days, “going back to school” doesn’t have to up-end your life. Keep your end goal in mind, do a little research on your dream job, and you’ll find a path to your next promotion.

Have questions? Contact us.