Polls / December 1, 2009

Would you stop work for a year to improve your education?

Taking a break from work to study is a popular move with respondents to the latest eZonomics poll but cost is seen as a barrier. Overall, 38% of respondents said they would stop work for a year to improve their education but 39% said they could not afford to.

The costs of hitting the books
The costs of education may be more complex than many people think. Research published this month suggested certain law school graduates have to earn more than $30,000 more a year than their peers who did not go to university, before the years of study pay off in financial terms. Author Herwig J. Schlunk - of the Vanderbilt University School of Law - factored not being in fulltime work and tuition and fees into the cost, while students' ability to "land very lucrative" summer jobs partly offset the expenses.
When the employment market toughened in 2003, The Economist reported a "dual degree does not come cheap" in a story about MBA students coupling the course with a Master's degree in an entirely different discipline. It noted opportunity costs included "foregone salary and career advancement".
A paper published last year for the Centre for Economic Policy Research found the "college premium" in earnings may tend to be partly eaten away by graduates living in large - and expensive - metropolitan areas.

Why it pays to keep skills up to date
Like networking, keeping skills up-to-date is a popular piece of careers advice.
United Kingdom government information portal Careers Advice wrote: "Learning new skills may cost a little bit but not learning new skills can cost you more in the long run. If you keep your skills up to date you'll have a wide choice of jobs, probably earn more and be in demand by employers."
Popular video Did you Know? - created by Scott McLeod, Karl Fisch, Laura Bestler, The Economist and XPLANE - noted how quickly the world was changing and claimed the 10 jobs expected to be the most in-demand next year did not exist as recently as 2004. The rapid pace of change highlighted the importance of keeping skills fresh.
Individual circumstances, hopes and dreams determine what to study and the relative benefits of full or part-time education - or whether to study at all.

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eZonomics team
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