Going Back to School When Middle-agedAs a young woman, I went to college and got my Associate's Degree and was prepared to pursue a career in business.  But then I met the man of my dreams, got...

Going Back to School When Middle-aged

As a young woman, I went to college and got my Associate's Degree and was prepared to pursue a career in business.  But then I met the man of my dreams, got married, and settled down to start and raise a family.  Now I'm 54 years old, I have one teenage child left at home, I'm a part-time substitute teacher, and I'm seriously contemplating going back to school to get my Bachelor's Degree in Teaching so I can become a full-time licensed teacher.  My husband says, "Why, at your age?  You're too old!  Are you crazy?" 

Am I too old and crazy, and what could I expect if I did pursue it? 

Expert Answers
tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I guess it would depend on what you want to do in teaching. I thought that spending my days discussing literature and planning out my own agenda would be a great job.  Now I'm finding that my days are spent satisfying parents, administrators, and other teachers in order to fulfill many strict laws concerning a diverse group of students with many different and individual needs. The demands and expectations of teachers is time-consuming and stressful. Sometimes I wonder if I should have gone into teaching elementary rather than secondary, so that is another thing to consider. If you have the time and energy to pursue a dream, go for it. There are 90 year old people going to college, why not you? If you're up for a challenging career, teaching is for you.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I did not finish my BA until I was 32. I finished my first Master's at 34. Currently, at 37, I am working on my second Master's (in English). Given the rate I am taking classes, I will be around 42 when I graduate. After that, I plan on working on my PhD in English. Again, this will take quite a few years (hoping to graduate by 50ish). My point in telling you this is that no "cap" on learning should exist. If education is that important to you, I say go for it. Many people these days are making major changes in their careers. If you feel like you are being called, do not ignore the call. Hopefully, by the time you finish your degree, the education field will have a few more openings than today (pretty hard area to find a job right now).

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My life has some parallels with the experiences you described. I got my teaching certification at 22 and taught for a number of years, then worked in a completely unrelated field for an equal number of years. When I accepted the realization that I needed to get back into the classroom, I took the coursework needed to get my certification reactivated (in my early 50's) and substituted until, based on relationships with a principal through subbing and community acquaintance, I was offered a fulltime position. During the years I was back in teaching, I obtained my Master of Arts in Education at age 56.

Finding a job is challenging, but I was very grateful to be returning to the classroom when I wasn't raising young children!

pacorz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am 52 and I will be receiving my second Master's degree this coming spring. One thing that has changed dramatically since I got the first MS in 1984 is the way the  classes meet. Almost all of my classes for this degree have been done online, through a regular university that is actually only about a 40-minute drive away.  Some classes are 100% online, some meet a few times in person as well. I would not be able to get this degree without the flexibility of the online class environment. And I would add that there are some advantages that come with age - my grades are a lot better now than they were in 1984. ;)

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I decided at age 55 to get a master's in education, well beyond middle-aged, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  I loved going to school at that age.  I felt I learned so much more, had so much more to contribute in the classroom, and wonderful experiences to apply my learning to.  While I do need to keep a roof over my head and food on my table, I would have to say that even if I had not been able to find work in my new field, I would never regret having done this.  It was a great experience.  Go for it! 


bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think you'll have any problems succeeding with your goal of earning a Bachelor's degree. I went back to college recently and found that my maturity and life experience were very positive assets in the classroom, and my grades were better than I ever made when I was in my teens and early 20s. Just be sure that teaching full-time is what you really want: As a substitute, you've probably already experienced the worst aspects of being a teacher in the 21st century, so best of luck with your new venture.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator
If it is something you want to do, then I would say "go for it ". With that being said, you need to go into the experience of college with the understanding that it is going to be difficult, but not impossible, for you to get a job as a first year teacher in your 50's. I don't say that to discourage you, but to let you know you are going to have to be exceptional and build some good relationships along the way to land a job.
rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm nearing 40 and am working on my PhD in history. I have children and everything that comes with that. The biggest surprise for me when I went back to school was how many people were in the same boat as me. I started noticing the same thing when I read the biographical sections of scholarly books. I've discovered that there is really no such thing as a traditional path to education anymore.  

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One good thing is that by the time a person gets to your age they are presumably a whole lot more prepared to deal with the kinds of hassles that come with teaching.  I think that younger people are more prone to the idealistic sorts of attitudes that Post #2 mentions.  So I don't see anything wrong with your idea (with the caveat that Post #3 offers about the difficulty of getting a job)...

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To rrteacher:

Are you planning to use your PhD to become a college professor or some other avenue.  My husband has considered working towards that goal, but we were curious what the job prospects were for people in our situation?  Just curious.

jjrichardson | Student

Many Americans believe that going back to school is a universally good idea. They feel that spending the time and money to improve one's education almost always leads to more pay, better opportunities and happier lives. College graduates earn 84 percent more money over their lifetimes on average than people with just high school diplomas.That belief in education as a universal good holds true for middle-aged people. Over 3.9 million people ages 35 and over were enrolled in degree-granting institutions in 2010, the last year for which data is available, up 20 percent from when the latest recession started in 2006, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The number of middle-aged people in college, graduate school or technical school is projected to continue rising to 4.1 million by 2015, the center predicts.

"Older people have always gone to school part-time," says Jane Glickman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education. "But there's definitely been an increase in full-time education among older students, as more people lose their jobs or go to working part-time."

mknkids | Student

Going back to school during one's middle age can sometimes be challenging in that it might be difficult for some who are not accustomed to learning from different professors, keeping such a tight schedule, and other deadlines of school.  However, once the jitters have calmed down, the cob webs have been cleared, and the slight fog has lifted (tongue-in-cheek), some students who are middle-aged are more mature and level-headed than many students who are younger and can offer a deeper level of understanding based on greater life experiences.  Middle-aged students are also more likely used to having to cope with life's challenges and might know how to better handle the stresses and challenges that go along with the rigors of school.