Being able to follow distance-learning courses which lead to additional qualifications is encouraging an increasing number of working Americans to “go back to school” with a view to boosting their professional skills, furthering their careers, or promoting their personal growth.

Online Learning Makes It Easier for US Employees to Go Back to School

According to a study* just published by the University of Phoenix, in Arizona, USA, an increasing number of Americans are now taking seriously the idea of continuous learning throughout their working lives. Some 54% of working adults are planning to go back to school in order to advance their education. And what is perhaps most noteworthy is that many of them intend to become ‘distance learners’ as the options for this approach to studying expand. Some 48% of those interviewed are already taking online courses or plan to do so soon. And the desire to do so is not limited to the youngest adults. In fact, adults between the ages of 25-34 were most likely to say they are currently taking an online course or plan to in the future (74%), while 58% of those aged 35-44 aim to take an online course, followed by 46% of adults in the 45-54 bracket and even 21% of adults aged 55 or older.

Professional ambitions…

For most people the main purpose of returning to the classroom is to gain the skills they need for the job they are currently doing or aspire to obtain. Dr Bill Pepicello, President of the University of Phoenix, points out that: “There is a skills gap in America. Employers have jobs available, but many companies are having a difficult time finding workers with the right skills to fill those positions.” More than 78% of those surveyed think it is important to have a college degree in today’s job market and 47% believe that continuing with further studies will help them boost their professional skills and/or pursue a new career. For more than half of the working adults, the main motivator is financial, with 58% of those who plan to pursue studies while working stating that their goal is to earn more money.

…and personal goals

“At the University, we see many working adults pursuing education to address their skills gaps and position themselves for career growth. Technology is helping to bridge this gap,”underlines Dr Bill Pepicello, . However, personal growth also plays a role, with 50% wanting to achieve a personal goal. Family often play a motivating role here, 37% of those polled saying they would like to make relatives proud of them.Continuing to learn during one’s career also sets a good example for the younger generation, 39% of those interviewees who were parents agreeing that furthering their own education helps their children to take on board the importance of obtaining a college degree.

*University of Phoenix Education survey, conducted online by Kelton, a market research and strategy consultancy,between 1-7 November 2012 among 1,019 nationally representative Americans ages 18 and over.