What shall I study?

There are many reasons why you might choose to study. Perhaps you need to know about certain topics in order to apply for a new job, or to get promotion within your existing company. You may wish to further your existing career, for example if a position you’re interested in applying for in the future requires applicants to have a specific qualification. You could study to pick up skills useful in everyday life, like learning French to use on a holiday to France. Maybe your friends are studying a subject and you’d like to join them in learning about it. Some people simply enjoy studying for its own sake, and treat it more as a useful hobby.

How do I find the right options?

It depends what you hope to get from studying. If you’re aiming to gain qualifications for a specific career, you’ll need to look at courses that are suitable. For example, if you want to become a professional fiction author, look for creative writing options, but also things like how to manage your money, how to write letters to agents, and so on. It’s important not to choose a subject simply because it sounds high-flown – most employers will first and foremost want staff to be able to do the basics really well. If you’re studying for your own enjoyment, you’re free to choose whatever you think you’ll enjoy.

How much time do I have?

If you’re already doing a full-time job, you’ll probably need to fit any extra studying around your work. The exception is if your chosen course is relevant to your employment, in which case it’s worth asking your boss whether you can have time off for study. Some companies will agree to this if they think you’ll become a better employee as a result, though it’s a big commitment so think carefully before deciding to go down this route. Evening or weekend classes, as well as online study options, can be very useful for those working a nine-to-five job; check at your local library or college to see what courses are available.

Can I afford to study?

Unless you’re being supported by your employer or are on a low enough income to qualify for government support, it’s likely that you’ll have to pay for any study you undertake. If you’re undertaking a full degree course, for example at the Open University, costs can run into thousands of pounds per year, although you’ll save on accommodation by working from home. Shorter or more informal courses are much cheaper, but it’s still important to budget carefully to make sure you can afford it. Dropping out of a course of study halfway through due to lack of funds can be very upsetting.

Where can I get help?

The best option is a friend or family member who’s studied something similar recently; ask them what they’d recommend for you. If you don’t have one, it’s always worth reading the websites of local universities and colleges, as most contain helpful tips for prospective students. You can also read online reviews, though remember that everyone has different needs and study that’s suitable for one person may not be right for you. If you think you may qualify for financial assistance, the government offers information on grants and bursaries. Whatever you eventually decide, studying can be a very rewarding thing to do. Good luck!