Transition Study: Working Professional to Full-Time Student

Kiirsten MayBlogs

We’re excited to introduce a new blog series called “Transition Study,” where we’ll share advice on transitioning in and out of post-secondary education. To kick things off, we’re looking at a shift that is gaining significance in Canada – the transition from working professional to full-time student.

Continuing education for working professionals looking to change or enhance their career

According to an article from Universities Canada, half of the Canadian jobs will require major skills shift in the next 10 years as technological advancements change the way we work. Our workforce is in a good position to embrace this change. In fact, a 2016 Ipsos poll found that nearly 9 of 10 employed Canadians agree that lifelong learning is crucial for career success.

If you are considering enrolling in university or college courses to get ahead of these changes, read on. We have more info on learning pathways and advice on making a successful transition from working professional to full-time student.

Continuing education for professionals

There are a number of different reasons a working professional might attend or return to college or university. Some people enroll in online or evening courses to upgrade their skills and credentials. Their goal is to advance within their current industry, become eligible for a promotion or increase their earning potential. They may continue to work in their primary job while attending a post-secondary institution as a part-time student.

Others may make the decision to change their career tracks entirely. Currently, there are 400,000 Canadians enrolled in university continuing education programs across the country. Many of these programs require you to leave your current job to attend classes full-time. Here are some of the common career-change motivators that we see in Manitoba:

  • They do not enjoy their current career.
  • They can no longer be able to perform their current job due to an injury.
  • Their life situation has changed, and they need a higher salary, more stability or more flexibility.
  • They want to pursue a dream that they have had for many years.

Top 3 challenges of adult education

The first challenge in returning to student life is managing the financial pressure. For example, an intensive, 14-month continuing education diploma can cost approximately $12,000 in tuition. And if you are re-entering the workforce in a completely new industry, expect to take a temporary pay cut while you re-establish yourself.

The second challenge is adjusting to the student schedule. In some ways, it’s less regimented because your course schedule may be different from office hours. However, your evenings may be filled with homework. Or, if you’re taking extended education courses, you may be attending classes in the evening. It’s also mentally trying to go back to sitting and learning for long blocks of time.

The third challenge is adjusting to teamwork. University and college courses typically include a number of group projects. Depending on your previous career, you may be accustomed to working independently. Prepare for conflicts to arise when you’re required to collaborate with people with vastly different work habits and training.

Tips for a successful transition

In spite of the challenges, advancing your education is a very rewarding experience. Here are a few tips for a smooth transition:

  1. Be patient with yourself. It may take a few weeks to get back into the swing of student life – even if you choose to take part-time or online courses. Stay proactive when it comes to completing assignments and readings so you don’t get bogged down.
  2. Get organized and keep to-do lists. This may seem like a small tactic, but if you’re balancing family, work and school, keeping a list of important and upcoming tasks can greatly improve your peace of mind.
  3. Stay optimistic. Remember that nothing is permanent. The school year is going to pass; it’s what you do with that time that will make the difference.
  4. Trust your soft skills. If you are changing careers, remember that skills such as interpersonal communication, organization and project management are relevant to every job. Be confident in what you have to offer, and it won’t be long before you’re back to a more senior position.
  5. Network. Young grads need to network and apply for plenty of jobs, and so will you. Take every opportunity to establish connections in your desired field. Work on an elevator pitch – your story of why you pursued additional education, and how it has put you in the best position for a promotion or new career.

Here are some additional resources on extended, online and continuing education in Manitoba:


Campus Manitoba is a consortium of Manitoba’s public post-secondary institutions. Through collaborative projects and shared services, we facilitate student mobility and expand access to post-secondary programs for students in Manitoba. In addition to campusmanitoba.ca, our websites include ecoursesmb.casetyourcourse.ca, and openedmb.ca.