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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

When is going back to school too late or unfeasable?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (21515 points ) May 5th, 2010

When it is unfeasible, illogical, or realistically too late to go back to school? It is said you are never too old to learn but isn’t there some fields where going later in life there is just not enough gas left in the tank to complete the race? Fields like medicine especially specialized medicine. What about degrees? By the time you get one (if you can stay healthy enough to complete the course) what would you be getting it for? Who is going to hire a green microbiologist 3 years shy of retirement age etc just because he has a PhD when they have many more with a PhD they can get many years of service from and coming with more experience because they started in their 20s? Unless you are going back to school to pick up Real Estate, Interior Decorating etc, when is it too late and unfeasible to do so?

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26 Answers

CMaz's avatar

When you are dead.

My Mother goes to College and takes Tai chi. She is 76.

It ain’t over till it is over.

SuperMouse's avatar

It is never too late or too unfeasible to go back to school. I am 44 years old and started back when I was 42. I even have a work study job (the oldest student worker in the library by at least 20 years, my soon to by step-son works there with me). One more semester and I will be ready to do my student teaching. I would love to get a masters and eventually even a PhD.

janbb's avatar

Our colleague @dpworkin started college in 2006 at age 57 and is finishing his undergraduate work next week. He has been accepted into Social Work school for the Fall and will receive an MSW in two years. It’s never too late!

SamIAm's avatar

never. you can always learn more and enhance your life!!

LostInParadise's avatar

In terms of going to school for a profession, like doctor, the rule of thumb that I just made up is that you should be able to serve in the profession for at least as long as it takes to get educated.

CMaz's avatar

@LostInParadise – Why can’t someone get educated for the pleasure of learning.

mirifique's avatar

It’s never too late to return, but it’s definitely easier if you go before you have kids, a mortgage, and a career.

Also, if you attend a highly expensive graduate school, such as law or business school, I think after a certain age it no longer makes financial sense to spend more on your education than you could reasonable recoup through increased earnings during the remainder of your life.

cookieman's avatar

I agree that it is never too late.

I had a student once who was a 73-year-old retired hand-surgeon. Well known in his field. After retirement and a year “of boredom” he became our student and earned his degree in Graphic Design. All because he wanted to work on the website at his local library.

I do see that what you end up doing with that new knowledge will depend on your energy level vs. the type of work, your general health etc., but @ChazMaz makes an excellent point that “the pleasure of learning” is often motivation enough.

CMaz's avatar

I have been in TV production for a long time.

I am also a certified Dive Master and Welder. Those I learned for the fun of it.

wonderingwhy's avatar

It’s never too late. Learning and the degrees that come with it are a means to an end, but learning is almost an end unto itself. And you would be surprised at the opportunities that can come along at any age when you are focused on a field you love.

slick44's avatar

You never stop learning. I think i learn something new everyday. It might not be earth shattering, but its something new. The world is your book of knowledge all you need to do is open it.

nikipedia's avatar

Depends on what you want to do with it.

There’s a woman in my PhD program whose kids are older than most of us. She seems happy enough.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@SuperMouse What field of study are you in? And when you graduate do you actively plan to try to work in that field for a living and not just to pass the time? If so, how will you convince someone to hire you with nothing but class experience over someone way under the retirement age who has 12 to 15 year actual work experience more than you?

PacificToast's avatar

It’s unreasonable to go back to school when you’ve reached an age when whatever degree you attain from the school will not allow you to be a productive citizen. This is pertinent only to the job world of course. Everyone keeps learning until the day they die.

TLRobinson's avatar

I’m 43 and scheduled to graduate in December with my undergrad degree. Not having a degree has not hindered me professionally, but impacted me personally. Knowledge is never useless nor a waste of time.

Ron_C's avatar

I’m almost 63 and am thinking about getting a degree in something that is not techinal. I think that I would like a liberal arts degree in English or Spanish.

The more I think about it, I would prefer Spanish because I don’t know enough about Spanish literature. All I need is the time and a little more money.

Dr_C's avatar

One of the people in my graduating class in medical school was at the time a 48 year old mother of 2. She is practicing happily after having achieved a life-long dream. One of my patients is a 78 year old man who is currently studying quantum physics, his wife is studying particle something or other… you are never too old.

faye's avatar

I agree you’re never too old to learn but I would worry about getting a job after 60 in a lot of fields.

Ron_C's avatar

I never thought about a job. I think I would use my degree to work as a volunteer teacher.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I will have education endorsements to teach secondary special education and k -12 library media. There is no doubt in my mind that I will get a job. I may not have as many years until retirement, but I do have the benefit of raising my own childre and maturity on my side.

andreaxjean's avatar

What’s being taught in college now is a lot different and more up to date than what has been taught in college 20 years ago. It’s never too late to go back to school… or to even just start. Many employers look for people who are fresh out of college because they know more about current economic conditions and etcetera.

YARNLADY's avatar

It depends on your goal. If you want to go back to school to become a personal trainer in a health club, you probably would find a lot of resistance over the age of 50, but you could still do it. If you are interested in getting an education – any age is the correct age.

talljasperman's avatar

When you’ve failed out of university and have student loans up the wazoo….also in Canada you can’t become a Professor after 67

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Samantha_Rae ”never. you can always learn more and enhance your life!!” I would agree, you should learn something new every day if you could. The Internet is a wide open class room should you want to learn new stuff. But if what you learn is suppose to make an impact on your life or spawn a new career I can see some things and some professions as unobtainable in a usable sense depending on how late you get started.

@ChazMaz ”Why can’t someone get educated for the pleasure of learning.” People do that all the time, they go back to fulfill unreached goals, personal interest, to keep from sitting around etc. If you have to think of something else to do because your job goes overseas, the economy causes the business to trim the fat and most of the fat they see is the work force not management; you have to find a way to reinvent yourself. Medicine takes many years of schooling; I would say at very least 6 years. If you went back to med school in your early 50s you would not even get out until you were near 60, and still not be a doctor just an intern. And if you had to do 4 years or more as an intern before you became a resident or an attending. If I were getting a gall bladder removed I don’t know I would be happy knowing tome fresh near green intern who was past retirement was holding the scalpel (if he/she will even seriously be allowed to work or given a license). Maybe real estate, home decorating etc you could do if you had to live off your new career otherwise it is an expensive hobby that is going to leave you with a boat load of debt to pay off.

cprevite ”Well known in his field. After retirement and a year “of boredom” he became our student and earned his degree in Graphic Design. All because he wanted to work on the website at his local library.” He wanted to go back to keep from being bored and graphic design is one of those areas where you can learn it in 2 to 4 years, way shorter then medicine, certain sciences, or even law maybe. If he had done so to compete in the work force how much of a chance would he really have to beat out some 30something guy with 7 years exp on him?

CMaz's avatar

“knowing some fresh near green intern who was past retirement was holding the scalpel”

Not if their goal was to just go to school. And if they pass the tests, then I would have to assume they are good to go. If their age was an issue (twitchy hands) I am sure that individuals intelligence would deduce an alternate way to use that education.

Or their goal could just be a high five and a job well done. Mission accomplished. A medical degree.

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