Before you quit your current job to go back to school, be sure that you recognize the challenges, how to overcome them, and the right way to begin that new adventure.
If the last few years have taught us anything about the labor market, it is that a great many Americans seem to be dissatisfied with their current jobs. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, tens of millions of workers have abandoned their jobs in search of new opportunities. Given the sheer level of worker dissatisfaction, there is a good chance that you may have considered pursuing that same path. The question, though, is “how to quit work and go back to school?”.
In this post, we will explore those questions and help you determine whether leaving your job for school is the right option for your career. We will also show you how to quit work and go back to school in a way that ensures you leave your job on the best terms possible.
When is it okay to quit work and go back to school?
Post-pandemic job anxiety has exacerbated many workers' frustration, which helps to explain why there is so much dissatisfaction in America's workforce. Still, some job seekers are hesitant to leave their current jobs in an economic environment that feels anything but stable. But fear of economic uncertainty is not the only thing holding them back. Many are also keenly aware that they may need additional skills to compete for the better jobs they desire.
The modern workplace is evolving at breakneck speed, and workers are finding it difficult to keep pace with all the changes. Just consider this: three decades ago, half of all manufacturing workers in the U.S. had nothing more than a high school degree. Today, the number of those employees is far outstripped by the number of workers who hold a bachelor's degree or higher level of education. That is an important change when you consider that manufacturing continues to be one of the most important sources of good-paying jobs for those who lack a bachelor's degree.
The fact is that a growing number of Americans are beginning to realize that they need significant skill upgrades if they want to advance in their careers. Part of that is due to advancements in technology, of course, but employers are also compounding the dilemma by elevating the educational requirements for many of their jobs. In a study of the education levels of dismissed job applicants, Harvard Business School found that many companies in the most rapidly growing industries will not even consider candidates who have anything less than a bachelor's degree.
If you are thinking about leaving your job but also recognize that you need additional skills, then it may be time to consider whether going back to school might be your best option. Consider the following questions:
Is your current job a dead-end with no prospect for career advancement?
Have you identified a new job but found that you lack the skills to meet the job requirements?
Is your workplace toxic?
Has your job left you feeling so dissatisfied with life that it is affecting your home life too?
Are you experiencing depression, hopelessness, or a lack of purpose?
Does the thought of gaining new skills and starting a new career spark your interest and excitement?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, there is a good chance that you may want to learn how to quit work and go back to school. Before you proceed, however, it is important to consider the challenges you might experience and the potential ramifications of that choice.
The challenges of going to school full-time without working
Obviously, there are many potential challenges for those who quit their jobs to return to school, so it is vital to weigh every aspect before you take that leap. For example:
If you quit and go back to school, that will mean a big change to your income and spending. You will not only lose out on your salary, but you will be doing so while you are incurring more expenses. Given that reality, it is important to think about whether your finances can withstand that level of change.
Returning to school is no easy feat, especially if you have been out of school for any serious length of time. Be sure that you are committed to your own education before you even consider taking this step.
Do you have the plan to finance your education? If you are not working, you may need to rely on student loans to pay for ever-rising college costs.
Is there a set goal in mind for your employment future? Do you have a specific job that you want to secure or a company that you want to work for? Alternatively, do you plan to return to your current employer, using your education credentials to secure a better position?
What level of education do you need to meet your goals? Are there continuing education requirements for the position you hope to secure when you obtain your degree?
How disruptive will this change be to your family life? Make sure that you sit down and discuss your strategy with your loved ones before making any final decision.
Age can also be a challenge. As much as we would love to think otherwise, today's learning environments are dramatically different than they were just ten or twenty years ago. You should also be prepared to adapt to the reality of the modern classroom if you are serious about quitting your job to return to school.
Addressing the financial cost
While earning upgraded educational credentials can dramatically increase your salary potential, there is a big price to pay at the front end of the process. Even if you can figure out how to quit work and go back to school, you will still need to develop a plan to cover the cost of tuition, books, and your normal living expenses. You may want to explore options for reducing your current expenses as much as you can, even as you search for potential scholarships or loans. Make sure that your household bills can still be covered without your current income.
If that is not possible, then you may need to explore other options like night school or classes at a community college while you shore up your financial situation. You may also want to ask your current employer about any potential education cost assistance that they can provide – but be aware that they will likely only consider that option if they know that you are seeking a promotion within their company.
Adapting to the need to balance school and life responsibilities
For any adult returning to school, one of the biggest challenges can be finding a balance between home responsibilities and the rigors of study. This can be particularly challenging for adult students who have spouses, children, and other obligations. You may find yourself being pulled in several different directions at once, struggle to find time and space to engage in your studies, or experience other distractions that can complicate your educational efforts.
You can avoid some of these difficulties by taking advantage of flexible learning options. Whether that includes night courses at a community college, online studies, or some other educational path is ultimately up to you. Just recognize that there are a variety of ways to achieve your educational goals while still balancing the other elements of your life.
Overcoming common challenges experienced by nontraditional students
You should also be prepared to deal with challenges unique to older, nontraditional students. Depending on the educational option you choose, you may find yourself surrounded by younger, more dynamic student peers. Since the youth culture changes so rapidly, you may feel out of place in today's classroom setting. Those changes, combined with the need to study, can cause anxiety and stress for many returning students.
Make sure that you are prepared to deal with those stresses, with a solid plan that balances study time, family time, and rest and relaxation. You should also ensure that your support network remains strong throughout any change in circumstances or routine so that you always have the help you need—even if it is just a trusted friend who is willing to listen to you vent your frustrations.
Create a strategy to guide your journey
To ensure that you are ready to make this change, you should develop a detailed plan for how to quit work and go back to school. This plan should be in written form and include everything you need to consider as you move forward toward your goal. If there is any aspect of the plan that gives you pause, revise your strategy until you are confident that it can succeed. Remember, this is a big step, and you need it to be successful. Your plan should include details about:
Your overall employment goals
Are you simply seeking a promotion from your current employer or are you looking for a career change and upgrade? If the former, then it might be wise to talk to your company about possible financial assistance or a leave of absence. If the latter, then try to identify some potential companies where you would like to work.
The credentials you need to obtain that job
Determine the level of education you need to achieve to reach your career goals. If you need a license or certificate for your desired job, it may only take you a year or less to complete that training. An associate degree typically requires two years, with bachelor's degrees requiring several additional years of study. Even more study time is required for a master's and higher levels of credentials.
Which schools can best provide you with those credentials
Once you know which educational path you need to pursue, you can begin to identify schools that can provide that coursework. This will also enable you to gather details about the actual costs you will need to incur to earn your credential.
How you will finance your educational efforts
Do you plan to use savings to pay for your education, or will you need to seek out scholarships or loans? If you work for a company that will help to finance that training — Amazon, for example, offers educational assistance to its associates — then you will want to discuss those options with someone from Human Resources or a member of management. Otherwise, you will need to ensure that you can secure the requisite financing on your own.
How to balance your family life during your time in school
Never simply assume that your family will adapt to your changed circumstances. You may know how to quit work and go back to school, but that knowledge is no substitute for family harmony. Always make sure that you get input from your loved ones before making any major change in life and create a solid plan that can guide all of you through any serious transitional period.
What to say in your resignation letter
If you have carefully considered everything involved in quitting your job to go back to school and are confident that it is the right step for you, then you will eventually have to draft a resignation letter. Regardless of whether you intend on returning to the company, it is important to maintain the highest level of appreciation. In this section, we will walk you through that process, providing some key tips that can help to ensure that you leave the best possible impression as you go.
Always strive to give at least two weeks' notice when you are leaving to go back to school. That not only provides your employer with time to find a suitable replacement but can help to avoid ruining your relationship with the company. Remember, you may eventually want to ask for a recommendation. Moreover, if they know that you are leaving to increase your value as an employee, that may help to improve your chances of getting rehired if you later decide to return to that company.
When writing your letter, try to follow this simple but effective strategy:
Identify your last day of employment, making sure that it is at least two weeks away.
Tell the company why you are leaving, being clear about your need to further your education.
Be sure to express gratitude for the experiences you have enjoyed at the company and the things that you have learned.
Try to deliver the resignation letter in person to your supervisor. That not only shows respect but will allow them the opportunity to ensure that they fully understand your decision.
Make sure that you are honest about your decision to better yourself. Do not use your resignation letter as an opportunity to vent frustrations or other negative emotions. Try to leave on the most positive note possible.
Sample resignation letter template you can use when going back to school
This sample resignation letter is not designed to be used verbatim, but as a template that you can change to fit your needs and unique circumstances. In other words, use it as a guide and change each section as necessary to ensure that it tells your story:
[City, State, ZIP code]
[cc: Human Resources, etc.]
Dear [Manager name],
I am writing to provide notice of my resignation from the position of [job title] at [company name], effective [date you plan to depart the company]. I have deeply appreciated the opportunity to learn and grow during my time at [company name] and know that those learned skills and experiences will be of tremendous benefit to me in the future. However, after due consideration, I have determined that it is time for me to return to school and continue my advanced studies. Unfortunately, there are not enough hours in the day for me to do that and continue to provide the quality work that this company deserves.
Please know that I am truly appreciative of the opportunity to work with you and learn from you these last [duration of employment] years. I cannot thank you enough for everything that you have taught me over that period.
I also want to reassure you that I plan to do everything in my power to aid you in the transition period as you train my replacement. If you need my assistance in that training effort or if there is anything else I can do to ensure a smooth transition, I am at your service. I will do anything I can to ensure our team's continued success.
If you are one of the millions of Americans who need additional educational credentials to advance your career, there is much to consider before you can confidently figure out how to quit work and go back to school. Hopefully, these tips can help you to create a strategy to identify your best course of action so that you can make the right decision for yourself, your loved ones, and your future success and prosperity!
And once you have upgraded your education, don't forget to revise your resume to reflect those new qualifications. Our professional team of resume experts can help to ensure that your resume has what it needs to make a significant and lasting impression! Get a free resume review today to discover how we can help!