How to Pick the Best College Courses to Advance Your Federal Career

Looking for reasons to go back to school and advance your career in the federal workforce?

Here’s one: Education pays.

Workers with a bachelor’s degree make, on average, $15,000 more than those with an associate degree. Federal workers with a master’s degree or higher do even better, federal statistics show.

There’s more.

Beyond a salary boost, an advanced degree is an effective bargaining chip. Hiring managers in the federal workforce traditionally make higher offers and grant more promotion opportunities to those with more education. Also, many federal positions, including those in law, medicine or the military, require constant recertification and retraining.

FEW knows this well.

We have helped more than one million women in the military and civilian workforce become strategic leaders with a four-pillar program that emphasizes the importance of continuing education. Our Virtual Leadership Summit is our showcase event underscoring our commitment to leadership training.

And this is just one of many scholastic options at your immediate disposal. Here’s another: Continuing your education at an award-winning university.

Here are some proven tips to get your started. 

Utilize Your Career Services Office

While it’s important to study a subject you enjoy, the main reason you’re back to hitting the books and racing to make it to class is because of your career progression.

You want to take it someplace it hasn’t been yet: higher.

The best colleges and universities offer a range of subjects and courses to help you reach new career heights, so it’s essential to research what’s right for you.

And you don’t have to go at it alone.

Career services at colleges and universities help students align their coursework with the specific job positions that match their career direction. These services also help you:

  • Make connections with industry leaders that can be more difficult to make on your own.
  • Find mentors who can offer guidance about a chosen career field.
  • Speak with an executive employed by a business in your desired industry.

Career services let you know the specific skills hiring managers want from job candidates like you.

Think About the Topics You Need to Study

It’s important to enroll in classes that touch on the topics you need to master to work in the federal department you desire.

For instance, for public administration positions in the federal workforce, enroll in classes that teach public budgeting, financial administration, public policy and community analysis, experts advise.

Alternatively, if you want to extend your career in public health (one of the fastest-growing areas for employment in the federal government following the pandemic), you should enroll in specialized classes that discuss occupational health and safety. Examples include courses in comparative healthcare systems, environmental health and epidemiology.

Consult your career services office to get detailed insight into the specific course curriculum you need to take.

Research Converting Work Experience into College Credit

Many colleges and universities offer nontraditional students, such as working federal employees, class credit for vocational experience.

There’s often a credit cap limit, which varies by school. But, the benefits of converting your work experience into much-needed college credit cannot be beaten. You can skip unnecessary courses, graduate faster than your peers and often pay less than they do.

And, credit might not just be limited to how many years you’ve been on the federal payroll. You can also reportedly receive credit for specific career accomplishments, professional certifications, military training and even volunteer work, depending on the college or university.

Incoming and current adult students can start this process by speaking with an academic advisor, visiting the career services office or researching their school’s website. 

It’s a bonus if your school offers such an advantage.

Consider Whether to Attend College Online or Onsite

How do you best learn and work: onsite or online?

And which learning method can your job and personal life best accommodate?

You will need answers to these questions before enrolling – in college to earn your degree, certificate or professional credential.

Some federal employees who return to class learn best in a traditional, on-campus, in-person setting. There are fewer distractions, they say. Stronger focus. And all the tools and space they need to create a tightly focused, hands-on learning experience are front and center.

No kids or barking dogs. No ringing cell phones.

However, with the right online college or university, federal employees returning to school have greater control over their class schedule and work time. Should work responsibilities fluctuate—and for federal employees, they always do—so can study time. Commutes to school are eliminated, saving time and fuel costs. Even your networking opportunities can increase through FEW and the proper college course selection.

It’s all about what works best for you and where you want to take your career in the federal workforce next.

Look Into Ways to Make College More Affordable

For many federal employees, tuition costs determine whether returning to school is right for them. It’s an investment in their budget and time.

There are ways to lighten the financial load. For example, scholarships and grants can be fantastic options to help you pay for tuition and other college-related expenses.

The right online college or university will offer federal employees the academic tools they need to excel professionally in the federal workforce. They will also provide cost-effective tuition rates and plenty of scholarship and federal grant options to help them foot the bill.

For instance, at the University of Arkansas Grantham, military workers, such as members of the Air Force returning to school, can apply for the Commander Everett Alvarez, Jr. Resilience Scholarship. In addition, the university offers similar scholarships for federal employees attending courses in criminal justice and several other majors.

Contact your school to learn about the financial aid packages available to you. Your career services department can offer a guiding eye.Federally employed women interested in returning to school and getting the degree, certification and training they need to kick their federal workplace career to the next stage can begin by registering for FEW’s Virtual Leadership Summit III or joining FEW. Contact us today to learn more.