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Top Skills Adults Are Going Back to School For

Going back to school is one of the best ways to advance your career and become more marketable.   

One of the biggest benefits of a degree program is that it will help you build a broad set of skills that aren't always specific to a job, an organization, or an industry. These skills can carry you through the rest of your career, and set you apart as a well-rounded professional with the ability to be flexible and take on new challenges.

We asked our program directors to give us insights into the top transferable skills adults are going back to school for - read on to find out what they said!


Top Skills to Go Back to School For


"There are many career-enhancing skills that people have intentions on strengthening when they come back to school, but it's an (often) unintentional skill that tops my list: management. The skill of and the need for management is everywhere. Think about that for a second. We can easily assume that management is an essential skill for business - managing people, projects, and operations are every-day occurrences in business settings. However, the competency of management encompasses many skills and is found in every professional - and personal - setting. How often do you plan, organize, direct, and control things in your life? Every day? The catch here is that in order to manage effectively, it takes practice and an advanced understanding of people and process. This is where going back to school comes into play. Champlain College Online challenges business students to plan, organize, direct, and control under a wide array of scenarios and throughout the entire business program. Our intent is to help students become more effective managers in their personal and professional lives. The better manager you are, the potential to make more money in your job and move up the ladder increases exponentially."

- Albert Orbinati, PhD, program director for undergraduate business programs.

Communication & Leadership

"Many of our adult students return to school to transform how they present themselves in the workplace.  They look to take on more of a leadership role and they recognize that effective communication is the most important skill for leaders.  Courses specifically important to communication don't just focus on clear communication skills, but also on active listening and on appropriate questioning techniques to generate a dialogue with those involved in the conversation. An especially important communication skill for leaders is how to manage difficult conversations in a way that allows both parties to hear what is being said. Because of its importance, strong academic programs recognize that students have the opportunity to develop good communication skills in all courses and good instructors in any course will help to develop them.

In addition, many of our students want to move beyond expertise in their skillset, such as accounting or marketing, to become leaders within their organizations.  Others may find themselves in a leadership position, but feel ill-prepared to motivate and manage their team. They soon learn that being a good leader isn't a "one size fits all", but rather a good leader is true to themselves and recognizes the importance of their team to accomplish big things. They also learn that no team will be effective without good communication and active listening to help generate a dialogue.

To watch the insight and growth that comes from being part of that experience never ceases to bring wonder to instructors. The students use their workplace as a laboratory to try their new approaches to leadership."

- Linda Miller, CPA, PhD, assistant dean and program director for accounting, HR, and MBA programs.

Information Security Skills

"Those who wish to technically upskill or reskill in information security know that nearly all employers are looking for qualified, experienced applicants. They also know that it often takes employment to gain experience, which is why, in an effort to increase their value and marketability, students are seeking out degree programs that offer hands-on learning environments in addition to traditional coursework. When students are able to use tools of the trade - vulnerability scanners and penetration testing software, for example - and apply their knowledge to scenarios that replicate those found in the real world, they find themselves able to talk the talk and walk the walk. As an added benefit, students who seek out hands-on learning experiences typically find themselves honing their problem-solving skills, which, in information security, are essential."

- Kathleen Hyde, MCIS, MBA, co-chair of cybersecurity programs.

Technical Skills

"As technology evolves and changes the way organizations act and people live, there is an increasing need for complex technical skills supported by a deep knowledge on the corresponding fundamentals. Adults are coming back to school to learn these skills from experts. They aim to thrive in a supporting and positive environment that can guarantee quality, which is something that is increasingly harder to obtain in a world where the amount of available information grows exponentially without any quality control. By doing so and by obtaining the corresponding credentials from a recognized institution, they improve their ability to do their current jobs or they change their professional path in search for new challenges and increased satisfaction. Either way, they move forward and they do so with confidence."

- Dr. Sérgio Tenreiro de Magalhães, co-chair of cybersecurity programs.

About the Author

Sonya Krakoff

Senior Content Marketing Specialist

Sonya Krakoff is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist at Champlain College Online, where she is the voice behind the CCO blog and helps tell the school's story across multiple digital platforms. Sonya has extensive experience in writing, content marketing, and editing for mission-driven businesses and non-profit organizations, and holds a bachelor's degree in English (with a focus on creative writing) from St. Lawrence University.

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