What to Expect When Going Back to School at 40

August 21, 2023

Going back to school at 40 may be nerve-wracking, but it certainly isn’t uncommon. According to a National Center of Education Statistics report, 17 percent of part-time undergraduates attending public four-year institutions are 35 and older.

That number shoots up to 61 percent when analyzing the same demographic’s attendance at two-year institutions. Though the decision requires both time and money, it is one that most students say pays off in the end. Going back to college can help individuals increase both job satisfaction and salary potential.

Evolving educational formats also make it easy for individuals to attend school without abandoning existing commitments at home. Read on below for more information on why going back to school at 40  might be the right decision for you.

Benefits of Going Back to School at 40

Going back to college can lead to an important career change

There is a significant earnings gap between individuals with college degrees and those without. Recent analysis suggests that bachelor’s degree holders are half as likely to face unemployment than those with just a high school diploma and make $1 million in additional earnings on average over their lifetime.

Studies also suggest that discrepancies in earnings intensify as levels of education increase. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), graduates with a master’s degree or higher have 28 percent higher earnings than those with a bachelor’s degree.

Of course, the benefits of going back to school at 40 extend beyond earning potential. It can take time to figure out what you’re most passionate about. The job market has also evolved since this demographic first entered the workforce, particularly when it comes to engineering and information technology.

Going back to school introduces individuals to the skills needed to survive in a fast-evolving labor market.

Tips for Going Back to College at 40

Now that we know why folks choose to go back to school, let’s discuss how they make it work. Remember, this decision will affect your social, personal and professional life. Navigating that kind of impact requires both planning and research. Listed below are a few tips for how to survive the journey ahead.

Choose a School that Suits Your Needs

Returning to school is an entirely different experience from arriving for your first time after high school. Most folks who decide to go back to school are further along in life and have financial and familial obligations to attend back home.

New England Tech has been a pioneer in professionally-focused, industry-based education designed for working professionals and adult learners who may have weekday responsibilities. Learn more about our wide range of degree program options with flexibility for adults.

Finding a school that can cater to adult learners and their unique needs is imperative. Trade schools and technical institutes like NEIT often incorporate online classes, weekend learning options, and accelerated programs into their program options to support non-traditional students. 

Decide What You Want to Study

Too often, we hear of “useless degrees” and their owners, whose work has little to do with what they studied when in school. Fortunately, adults who decide to return to school don’t usually fall under that umbrella; mainly, because they’re interested in pursuing a career change.

That might have something to do with the staggering statistic recently released by Gallop. A poll conducted by the analytics and advisory company found that 85 percent of working professionals are unhappy in their jobs.

Chances are, if you’ve decided to return to school, it’s because you’re hoping to break out of that demographic. With that, it’s essential to do your research. See what degree options are available and think about what will make you happy.

Figure Out How You’ll Finance Your Education

Statistics suggest the 42.9 million Americans with federal student loan debt owe an average of $36,406 each. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid those kinds of numbers. 

Online colleges cost just a fraction of what campus-based institutions charge, for instance. Learning from home also allows students to dodge additional expenses around housing, commuting costs, meal programs, and more.

NEIT’s Net Price Calculator shows prospective students what the cost of attendance would be less any grant aid for which a student may be eligible.

You can look into financial aid options as well. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before applying to degree programs to see what kind of federal grants and loans are available. Remember, there is no age limit for federal aid.

Lastly, you can check with your employer to see if your company offers any education-related benefits that can help you pay for your education.

Develop A Support System at Home

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Going back to school is a pretty reliable way of disrupting existing routines. It can be hard to find a balance between taking care of children and getting your schoolwork done on time. Try to think of solutions before the school year begins, and don’t be afraid to turn to friends and family for help.

You can also use calendar and reminder apps to help you manage your schedule when school’s in session. These resources can help you anticipate incidents that may interfere with your school work and plan ways around them.

Locate Your Resources Both On and Off-Campus

Colleges understand how stressful going back to school full-time can be. Contact support services and see what kind of assistance they can offer during your degree program. You can also reach out to individual professors, who may grant you additional flexibility to manage work, family, and school.

Our support services are designed to meet your needs. Tutoring is available to help you ace your coursework, and you will have a student advisor assigned to you to help you stay on track for graduation and get you all the help you need as you get ready for your new career.

Your peers can be a great resource to rely on when getting your education as well. Talk to friends in your program. See if you can compare class notes or form a study group to prepare for major exams and assignments.

You can also look for opportunities to squeeze in some study time when off-campus. Long commutes, meal breaks, and even a quick trip to the gym can provide just enough of a window to review notes or listen to a lecture.

Best Careers to Go Back to School at 40 

There are a number of careers adult students may consider entertaining after earning their degree. Of course, they will depend on their area of interest, salary expectations, and professional capacity. Still, certain industries are growing fast and remain particularly attractive to older graduates.

Registered Nurse

The medical industry is currently experiencing a high demand for nurses. This can be attributed to several factors, including an increased emphasis on preventive care, increasing rates of chronic conditions, and growing demands for nursing services of baby boomers who are now leading longer and more active lives.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment among registered nurses is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029. As of May 2020, the organization determined that the median annual wage for a registered nurse was $75,330.

Personal Financial Advisor

As the population ages and life expectancies rise, demands for personal financial planning will increase. Individuals interested in a career as a personal financial advisor should look into a business, accounting, or economics degree.

They must also possess the skills necessary to read data, recognize trends, and anticipate where markets will be of the most value to their clients. According to the BLS, personal financial advisors enjoy a median pay of $89,330 per year.

Information Security Analyst

Employment among information security analysts will grow by a staggering 31 percent between 2019 and 2019. That rate far exceeds projects assigned to other careers. As our world moves even further online, demands for the job will grow. According to the BLS, information security analysts enjoy a median pay of $103,590 per year.

If you’re a technology professional with experience in network security, information security, cybersecurity, or software engineering, our Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity is ideal for you. Students interested in this discipline can complete their education entirely online.

Market Research Analyst

Market research analysts can typically find work in all areas of the economy, as all industries rely on this kind of data. Individuals interested in this field should consider pursuing a bachelor’s degree in marketing, business administration, or psychology.

According to the BLS, employment among market research analysts is projected to grow 18 percent from 2019 to 2029; a much faster than the average for all occupations. Marketing professionals in this area earn a median pay of $65,810 per year.

Why Adult Students Choose New England Tech


Earn your degree in less than two years from NEIT and begin your new career path today!




Complete your academic goals at NEIT

NEIT remains committed to helping our adult students achieve their academic goals. We offer a wide range of degree program options with the flexibility needed to take your career to the next level.

Several of our associate and bachelor’s degree programs offer evening class schedules and can be completed in 18 months or as little as three years. In addition, all of our master’s degree programs are designed to accommodate the schedules of working professionals.

We offer evening or day class options for individuals who may work at night along with weekend classes, hybrid degrees as well as a handful of fully online degree options.

For added convenience, each of our degree programs has classes that run during four start dates per year: October, January, March/April and July. For more information about our degree programs with class schedules for working professionals, click the button below or call our Admission Office at 401-467-7744.


Earn your degree in less than two years from NEIT and begin your new career path today!





Is it worth going back to college at 40?

Researchers have linked college degrees with higher levels of job security, earning potential, and job satisfaction. Going back to college at 40 can also help you advance your career or make a career change.

How can I go back to school after 30?

The first step in going back to school is doing your research. See what kinds of degrees are available for your chosen area. Reach out to individual schools to learn more about their program formats and online options.  You should also apply for the FAFSA before enrolling in school to see what kinds of financial assistance you may qualify for.

What should I go to school for at 40?

You can go back to school for any number of things after age 40, but industries with the most opportunity include healthcare, technology, finance, education, marketing, and business administration.

What age is too late to go to college?

It’s never too late to go back to college! Remember, Abe Lincoln didn’t join the newly formed Republican party until age 47. Henry Ford was 40 when he founded the Ford Motor Company. Samuel Jackson didn’t become a household name until he was 46, after landing a starring role in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

Don’t let your age deter you from making a positive change in your life. Get in touch with our admissions office today.

Going back to school doesn't have to be hard. Start your new career path today!