Online Schooling for 50+ Learners

July 12, 2012

By Estelle Shumann

Now that the economic downturn is starting to rise, many professionals over the age of 50 are looking at different ways to compete in the job market. Boomers between the ages of 50 and 64 are returning back to school at record numbers and are finding online schooling as the best solution.

As we all know, longevity and seniority in a position is no longer a guarantee of secure employment, yet Steve Newman never expected to be going back to college in his 50s to train for a new job. However, as companies continue to shift and pivot, returning to school as you approach your twilight years is going to continue to rise.

In an article in the Columbus Dispatch, the 51-year-old Hilliard, Columbus resident said he also never expected to get laid off three years ago after 25 years as a civil engineer.

“Fortunately, my wife and I had been making provisions for an undefined emergency since the middle of the previous summer, so we were not without resources,” Newman said.

For many like Newman, high unemployment, low home values and downsized retirement accounts, have baby boomers returning to college to boost their job skills. The number of students ages 50 to 64 increased 17% nationwide between fall 2007 and fall 2009, according to the latest data available from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Many boomers are returning to school online and are finding many colleges and universities including MIT and Harvard are offering specific programs for older professionals.

Online courses are allowing the over age 50 professional a chance to refresh their job skills by learning new systems, programs, applications and procedures.  As a result, they are able to upgrade their resumes giving them a much-needed competitive edge.

And, because many boomers anticipate working longer, they are now realizing new post -secondary educational goals, and are enrolling in college for the first or fifth time to fulfill unrealized dreams. The University of California in Los Angeles, for example, is currently offering online education to baby boomers who want to switch careers. They’ve recently partnered with a for-profit company, the Encore Career Institute, and are offering online professional certificate programs taught by instructors from the UCLA Extension program. It includes certificates in project management, paralegal studies, fund raising and more-all designed for professional entry into a designated field.

A recent AARP Survey on lifelong learning  of more than 1,000 people aged 50 and older, revealed intellectual stimulation and skills enhancement are just some of the benefits of online education.  More than ninety percent identified the desire to keep up with what’s going on in the world, their own spiritual growth and the satisfaction of learning something new as their reasons for pursuing additional education.

Former technology executive Steve Poizner said in a recent article in The Chronicle that 35 million American baby boomers are interested in a second career. He believes a lot of boomers who have been able to survive this difficult economy still find their jobs are not necessarily satisfying, so they are looking for an encore career and online schooling allows them to pursue a second career while still working.

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