Working parents have a powerful incentive to find the right career: the future of their families. A better job can mean a better neighborhood with better schools, more time off, less stress and a happier balance between work and family life. For many, though, the challenges of returning to school can be immense. Working parents who return to school must juggle academic life, work and, often, an immense mental load and household labor burden. That doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams for your future. The best degrees for parents going back to school are accessible, allowing you to balance all the facets of your life while still opening meaningful career doors.
The Challenges of Returning to School as a Working Parent
Working parents bring immense resources to the job. Most adults eventually have or live with children, so working parents can empathize with the lived experience of the majority of the population.
Additionally, in one 2014 study, parents — especially mothers — outperformed other groups in productivity at virtually every career stage, even when they had multiple children. Unfortunately, not all employers see this value. In particular, working mothers face career penalties that can compromise their wages and career advancement.
Regardless of gender, working parents must juggle a host of challenges that can make adding school to their schedule difficult. These challenges include:
- Tight budgets. People with children who earn the same income as their childless peers have more people to support. That means higher grocery bills, insurance premiums, utility costs and more.
- Time constraints. Kids need time with their parents, and parents are understandably reluctant to give up that quality time. Maintaining a household with children also demands an additional time commitment — more cleaning, more meal preparation and more time spent on household tasks, such as grooming the children and getting them ready for bed.
- Less personal time. Parents average just 32 minutes per day of personal time.
- Sleep deprivation. It’s no secret that getting kids to sleep, especially babies, can be challenging. One study found that parents face up to six years of sleep deprivation after having children.
- Family support. Working parents need family support to shoulder the burden of returning to school. They may need to lean on relatives for childcare, ask a spouse to take on more of the household labor or get everyone in the family on board with a leaner family budget.
More Education: A Great Bargain for Working Parents
The barriers working parents face are not trivial. However, they are worth surmounting for a chance at a permanent improvement in your income and work-life balance. More education can mean significantly more earnings.
In 2020, the median weekly earnings of workers with bachelor’s degrees were more than $400 higher than peers who attended but did not graduate college and more than $500 higher than their peers with only a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
More education also reduces your risk of unemployment. In 2020, workers with bachelor’s degrees had unemployment rates of 5.5%, with even higher levels of education producing even lower levels of unemployment. Those with only a high school diploma had an unemployment rate of 9%.
Your education is one of the most powerful tools you have to remain employable, even in tough economic times. In the last economic recovery, 95% of jobs went to those with at least some college education, leaving everyone else to compete for a comparatively smaller piece of the pie. Even 10 years following the Great Recession, the least educated workers still had not recovered.
The Best Degrees for Parents Going Back to School
The degrees that make it worth it to return to school offer entry into lucrative and rewarding careers that allow parents to balance work and family. These degrees are among the best options for people with children:
A career in education offers exceptional flexibility, especially if you choose to teach at a school that gives you summers off. Many of the skills you have mastered as a parent translate well to education, and if your kids are in school, the career setting will already be familiar to you.
Teacher salaries vary from state to state, but the average national teacher salary for the 2019-2020 school year was more than $63,000. There’s also plenty of room for growth, especially if you have an advanced degree, such as SNU’s Doctor of Education in Administration and Leadership. This role might be right for you if:
- You love working with kids.
- You have a knack for teaching others.
- You work well in groups.
- You are committed to working with diverse groups of adults and children.
SNU can prepare you for a career in education, including roles in administration, leadership, special education administration, paraprofessional work and more. We offer a number of education-focused programs, including:
- Alternative Certification
- Doctor of Education (Ed.D) in Administration & Leadership
- M.A. in Educational Leadership
- M.A. in Administration of Special Education
- Special Education Boot Camp
- Troops to Teachers Courses
Counseling professionals help people confront their trauma, deal with interpersonal conflict and manage their emotions and behaviors so they can lead happier lives. These are the skills parents use every day to mediate sibling conflicts, model emotion regulation and teach children the social skills they need to thrive in the world.
Counselors have average annual earnings ranging from $69,000 to about $86,000. The role is also highly flexible. You might work for yourself in a private practice, join a local nonprofit, become a school counselor or work part-time in a mental health consulting role.
A career as a counselor might be a great fit for you if:
- You are interested in the dynamics of human relationships.
- You are a good listener.
- You pride yourself on exceptional interpersonal skills.
- You want to help people confront their challenges and thrive in the face of them.
Management and Leadership
Life as a parent can feel a bit like life as a manager because you constantly oversee the daily activities of growing human beings. A management role is a great option for a parent because it utilizes the skills you lean on at home. Managers can earn a great living, often well into six figures, and those who rise to the top of their organizations or go into business for themselves have immense career flexibility.
You might make a good manager if:
- You are a natural leader with strong communication and interpersonal skills.
- You want to help people excel in their careers.
- You tend to fall into a leadership role when you work in groups.
- You have been told you’re a good manager.
SNU can prepare you for a career in management and leadership, including entrepreneurship, business management, finance, project management, consulting and more. Our management and leadership programs, like all of our professional and graduate courses, have start dates throughout the year. Select a specific program to learn more:
- Master of Business Administration
- Master of Business Administration for Healthcare
- Master of Leadership
- Master of Science in Management
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
- Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership
To learn more about the benefits of pursuing your management or leadership degree and the available career paths for those who hold such degrees, we recommend reading the Business and Management Career Planner. >>
Healthcare careers are among the fastest-growing in the country thanks to increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 16% growth in healthcare between 2020 and 2030. With a wide range of roles — including non-medical options in healthcare administration — there are plenty of options that work well with a parent’s schedule and needs.
Wages vary greatly from job to job, but at the upper levels of administration, you can easily earn six figures. Healthcare consulting is also increasing in popularity and is a stellar option for parents who want to work part time or remotely.
A job in health administration could be right for you if:
- You are deeply committed to public health and improving health outcomes.
- You are a natural leader who cares about people.
- You are interested in science and medicine, but don’t want a clinical role.
- You want to lead a health organization.
Things to Consider When Going Back to School
As you consider going back to school, it’s important to identify what matters most to you. Make a list of your most important career goals. Then ask yourself these questions when comparing the best degrees for parents going back to school:
- Does the typical schedule associated with this job work with my lifestyle and goals?
- Can I earn enough money to support my family?
- Is this a job that is friendly to working parents, or do working parents tend to face penalties and stereotypes?
- Does a specific degree offer entry to my chosen career?
- Do I have experience in this field? Do I think I will like and be good at the work?
- Might my experience as a parent be an asset in this career path?
As you weigh your options, it’s equally important to choose the right school. Parents are not a monolith. Some have highly supportive spouses who can shoulder a significant portion of household labor, whereas others are single or must do most of the childcare on their own. Prioritize institutions that offer the support and flexibility you need to get the education you deserve. Some questions to ask include:
- Does this school offer flexible scheduling?
- What sorts of financial aid support can I expect?
- Are there accelerated degree tracks?
- Can I get credit for prior learning?
- Does this school cater to adult learners?
- What career support does this institution offer? How can they help me achieve my career goals?
- Can I attend classes online?
- Is the school accredited? If so, by whom?
SNU is fully committed to adult learners, including busy parents. We understand what it takes to help you achieve your goals, and we deeply respect the commitment you’ve made to your family and yourself as you pursue your education while raising children. We are here to help every step of the way. To learn more about our online, parent-friendly programming, download our free guide, “What to Expect from an Online Degree Program.”