Continuing Education and the Job Search

“While I’m unemployed, should I return to school to get an advanced degree? Or maybe I should pursue a professional certification? Which will help me get re-employed quicker?”

mortar-board-booksAs I lecture on the job search challenges and resume writing, I often get asked a question that is difficult to answer. “Should I return to school or should I obtain a professional certification while I’m unemployed? Do you think it will help me get a job?” Yes, there are a lot of anecdotal answers, but there is very little research to support a trusted response. And while most of us recognize the many benefits of continuing education, the real question is how beneficial is it in helping a job seeker become re-employed?

I’ve heard various opinions, but there doesn’t seem to be any definitive data supporting or refuting its benefit. These questions have been posed to the U.S. Department of Labor, and while they have data for those that do NOT currently have a degree, they have very little data to answer this question when asked by an experienced professional that already holds a college degree but finds that re-employment is taking longer than expected. This is where the questions most commonly arise — the professional with several years of work experience, with a bachelors degree, and unemployed for 3, 6, 12 months or more!

As a doctoral student at Pepperdine University in the field of Education, I decided to try and answer these questions. My dissertation is focused on insights from both Job Seekers and from Recruiters/Hiring Managers dealing with business professionals trying to become re-employed after losing a job. I hope to have the findings published and presented to the U.S. Department of Labor and to the U.S. Department of Education. But, to effectively assess the value of Continuing Education to the Job Seekers, I need your help.

Please consider this an invitation to take a 15-minute online survey regarding education and re-employment. If you are at least 21 and you 1) have experience hiring or interviewing job candidates sometime since September 2001, I’d appreciate your time and insight. Or, if you 2) are an experienced professional with at least a bachelors degree and have been unemployed for more than 3 months sometime since September 2001, insight on your job search experience would be appreciated.

If you’d like to participate or you would like more background information on the research, please check out this website:

Thank you in advance for helping with this research!

Bottom Line: Yes, education helps in the job search. But without some research and clarity around the specific careers sought and education held, saying that a specific course or degree or certification is the best approach is difficult to determine. Through research we can help refine this challenge for many job seekers. So check the link and either participate in the survey or look at the results (published sometime in 2015).


I originally wrote this article back in 2014 while I was working on my dissertation. With the help of many of you (job seekers, recruiters, managers, experts, etc.), the feedback was excellent – I had over 200 usable survey responses from a nicely diverse set of respondents. By combining the survey data with the commentaries from the participants, I was able to establish some viable responses to the questions above.

The important point to note is that the value of the education in the job search varied greatly depending on the situation of the person responding. But the bottom line is that continuing/advanced education (academic or certification) is valued by the hiring managers and recruiters. I’m still doing further research and study in this area, but here’s some of the key findings I published in my dissertation:

Feedback is appreciated! 

[Updated 9/22/17]

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