Continuing your education doesn't have to mean leaving home for graduate school, with the accompanying student loans.
Higher education for a fraction of the cost?
Most certainly. If you are looking to broaden your knowledge in a particular area of interest, you may be able to do so without accumulating a hefty bill for tuition from a major university or leaving the comforts of your own home.
Here are 10 ways to continue your education for free or for a modest amount of money:
This may seem rather obvious, unless you despise reading and would rather jump into a fiery pit instead. Well, continuing education goes beyond listening to lectures, both in and out of formal settings. For every subject of interest to a human walking planet Earth, there are many books about them. (Determining the quality is another story.) So there’s no excuse not to learn something new every day.
Still not motivated? I’d suggest committing to one book a month or setting aside a set number of hours each day to read. Start with entertaining books and later work in the more technical guides. Before you know it, you’ll have a considerable amount of new knowledge in your brain.
You don’t have to spend a lot of cash to beef up your collection. Start with the library, where books are free. If you’re buying, eBay and Amazon are particularly cost-efficient if you don’t mind gently used books. Smashwords offers an exhaustive collection of e-books on almost every topic under the sun, some of which are free of charge.
2. Trade magazines
Trade magazines are crafted to appeal to members of a particular industry by presenting ground-breaking developments and recent trade and industry news. You may or may not be given complex formulas or solutions to dilemmas you encounter daily in the workplace, but these publications can serve as a starting point to direct you to a broader understanding of a particular field.
Also, check out the extra articles on the website that weren’t included in the magazine, but are equally useful.
3. Nontraditional online courses
Online learning communities are popping up all over the Web. And the most appealing element is the fact that you can take a course from an expert in a field or subject matter for a fraction of what you’d spend at a college or university — or even for free. Looking for a few platforms to try out? Take a look at:
4. Free Ivy League education
You definitely read that correctly. While you won’t exactly earn a degree from a prestigious institution, you can get a quality education just as its on-campus students do. Check out these free programs from Ivy League and other prestigious institutions of higher education:
- University of Pennsylvania courses via Coursera
- Open Yale courses
- Courses from Harvard, University of California, Berkeley, MIT and other schools via edX.
- Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative
- Duke iTunes U
- MIT OpenCourseWare
- UC Berkeley webcasts
5. Self-study modules at your place of employment
During my tenure as a governmental accountant, I frequently took advantage of the continuing education courses offered to employees to facilitate the comprehension of system operations. If you have the same opportunities available to you, don’t shy away from attending, even if most of the other trainees are new employees. If you ignore these free opportunities, you may miss out on valuable information that can be taken with you to the next level.
6. Local conferences
Connect with other business professionals in your area, your alumni association (if applicable) and the local Chamber of Commerce to be in the know about local conferences related to your industry.
7. Professional associations
This is another fantastic way to network with others in your industry and perhaps connect with mentors who can guide you along the way and refer you to low-cost or free continuing education events/alternatives.
8. Web searches
You probably weren’t expecting this, but there’s so much knowledge that can be acquired from the Internet — if you successfully weed through the massive volume of information to find the steak and potatoes. When using an online search engine, don’t limit yourself to the first page of results. Instead, play with the search criteria and dig a little deeper to find those hidden gems.
Experience is one of life’s greatest teachers, so why not find a mentor in your field of interest and shadow that person to get a feel for how she or he operates on a daily basis. During the shadowing process, that mentor will more than likely deposit bits of wisdom into your brain.
And you will also have an opportunity to ask questions and tie up any loose ends regarding matters you are uncertain about.
Improving your vocabulary has many benefits. Study a dictionary like Webster’s New World College Dictionary for a few minutes every day, or find the online version. Combine your studies with some fun: Play the game of Scrabble. That will give you an opportunity to put your new words to use, reinforcing what you’ve taught yourself.
Do you have any additional suggestions? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.