A MONSTER MEMBER ASKS: I received my BS (1980) and MS (1982) in education and health sciences and worked in medical research until the mid-1980s. Since moving from the East Coast to California, I have changed careers and worked in computer support (three years) and mortgage banking (10 years). While these jobs paid the bills, I haven't been able to progress to a management position. I enjoy working in finance and business entrepreneurship. Would getting an MBA or JD at 46 be worthwhile?
WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS: Perhaps you have more vocational options to consider than whether an advanced degree will give you the greatest market advantage. You already have a wonderfully diverse educational and work history, and generalists are highly prized in some arenas.
Instead of jumping right to the either/or question about graduate school, consider doing more in-depth self-assessment as well as some preliminary market research. One key question to ask yourself is whether your desire to return to school is motivated solely by career application, or in part by a desire for more personal satisfaction.
California's community colleges and universities are known for their excellent career centers. A good next step would be to make an appointment at a school near you. An experienced vocational counselor can be an invaluable partner in helping you develop a strong foundation on which to base your ultimate decisions.
After figuring out who you are and what you really want to do at this stage in your life, you're ready to begin your research. This will help you decide if you are still on target for advanced studies. In addition to job requirements, study company Web sites for other pertinent information about industries you've targeted.
You will probably also want to go on some informational interviews with folks currently doing the type of work in which you're most interested. These are not job-seeking interviews, but rather informal opportunities for you to gather additional data to help clarify your goals. You'd surely get solid insider information about new-to-you fields. Informational interviewing will help you develop your network of professional contacts and may yield leads or referrals.
Finally, have you considered revisiting your degree in education? Teaching is one of the 21st century's growth fields. Shortages in some states are so severe that school boards are trying a variety of creative techniques to recruit and certify new teachers; some are even offering signing bonuses. Not surprisingly, in many areas, more than a few mid-career (and midlife) refugees from other industries have made this career change.
Take your time, and do your homework before making a decision.