In today’s rapidly changing workplace, whether you’re looking to advance your career or just starting out, the more up-to-date career education you have in your field, the more marketable you are.

“For those who are looking to find relevant and meaningful work, it’s key to continue developing current skills and learning new ones,” says Jake Schwartz, CEO of global learning experience company General Assembly.

But most busy professionals hoping to change or advance their careers don't have time to go back to school to add a skillset to their resume, and people looking to start a rewarding career might not have the time or money to invest in a traditional brick-and-mortar education.

While traditional educations are expensive, lengthy and require students to take courses unrelated to their careers or interests, career-specific educations offer an affordable alternative to finding a fulfilling career that takes less time and money while focusing in on the students’ areas of interest.

Skills for a fulfilling career

Available online, at traditional colleges and at vocational/trade schools, career-specific education grants certificates, certifications and badges, as well as offering professional development and continuing education courses so students can pursue their dream careers while keeping their skills up to date.

“These classes are designed to help improve skills or teach a new skill entirely to a student who’s looking to change careers,” Schwartz explains.

General Assembly’s coursework spans skillsets that include data, design, marketing and UX, and they offer a variety of experiences, ranging from multi-week long courses to one-time, shorter workshops. Not every individual or student is the same, nor do they have the same interests or goals.

“For someone who is interested in exploring a new topic or needs a quick overview to help support them in their current role, workshops are an easy one-time commitment,” he says. “For those looking to make a career change, often the part-time or full-time courses are the best route. With our global campuses and community, we can empower people with the skills they need to pursue the work they love.”

“Employers report a high ROI and large savings on retention for current employees and use this benefit as a work perk when recruiting new ones.”

Empowering employees

Just as continuing education courses can help job seekers find a more fulfilling career, it can also be an important tool to help employers to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Schwartz says the changing workplace and growing tech economy have created an increased workplace demand for individuals with skills in tech, design, data and business to support growth and help companies stay competitive. He believes arming employees with those skills is the best way to cultivate a best-in-class workforce.

“The current shelf life of technological skills is less than five years, making it critical for employers to encourage lifelong learning in order to remain competitive,” he says, adding that employers can send their employees to these courses online and in person, as well as bring General Assembly in for on-site training.

If professional development programs are not already part of a company, Schwartz concedes it can seem daunting to approach the boss about implementing them. But research indicates companies who offer their employees continuing education classes end up saving in the long-term, as well as building a loyal employee base.

“Employers report a high ROI and large savings on retention for current employees and use this benefit as a work perk when recruiting new ones,” he says. “It costs an estimated 16-20 percent of an employee’s annual salary to replace the worker, so it pays to invest in your current workforce.” 

Ultimately, if the career education course is vital to the job and will help the employee do it better — or more efficiently — there is a strong case to ask for it. “In this digital age, lifelong learning is more important than ever,” Schwartz says. “It’s what will help businesses and individuals stay competitive and in high demand in whatever they do.”