Plus five tips for taking your career to the next level.
Keeping up-to-date on the skills you need in order to do your job well has never been more difficult — thanks to rapid advances in technology. Career development programs are a great way to stay relevant, whether you work for an organization or run your own business.
Signing up for a program, however, can take time and money you don’t have. If that’s the case, personal loans can help cover the costs of a course that could very well pay for itself by sending you into a higher pay bracket.
What’s the best way to finance a career development program?
The best financing option will depend on your specific situation. One way to pay for a career development program is with a personal loan. These flexible financing products allow you to borrow as little as $1,000 or as much as $100,000. You’ll receive the approved funds in one lump sum and then pay it back over three to seven years.
If you’re enrolling in a certificate program, you might want to look into loans specifically designed for career development programs. Lenders like Sallie Mae offer career development loans that come with grace periods and flexible repayment options, similar to a student loan.
Our top picks for career development loans
|Provider||Why it’s good for career development||Loan amounts||Starting APR|
|SoFi personal loans||Its unemployment protection and entrepreneur program lets you pause payments till you get back on your feet or get your new business off the ground. It also gives you access to financial advisors that can help you plan your next career move.||$5,000 to $100,000||Fixed rate: 5.74%|
Variable rate: 5.615%
|Upstart personal loans||Offers personal loans that can be used to cover the cost of a course or bootcamp, and considers factors like education and employment history in addition to your credit score.||$1,000 to $50,000||7.43%|
|Earnest personal loans||Multi-use personal loans that can be used for career development with a simple, quick application.||$1,000 to $50,000||5.25%|
How much does career development cost?
It depends on what type of program you want to enroll in. Trade school or a master’s program can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, though that’s generally more of a commitment than most career development programs. Here’s the breakdown of the cost of some common programs:
|Program type||Typical cost|
|Coding/programming bootcamp||$10,000–$20,000, usually with $1,000–$2,000 scholarships available|
|Technical writing workshop||$350–$3,000|
|Presentation skills seminar||$1,000–$1,500|
|Accounting/financial skills course||$2,000–$4,500|
|Systems security course||$1,500–$6,000|
|Web design course||$50–$1,000|
|Graphic design course||$250–$1,000|
|Restaurant management certification||$700– $20,000|
|Commercial driver training||$1,500–$8,000|
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How else can I pay for career development?
You don’t necessarily need to take out a personal loan to pay for career development, even if you don’t have the funds immediately available to you. Other options include:
- Professional development scholarships. Search for career development scholarships in your field and the area you’d like to develop. It can be competitive and applications can take some time, but it might give you an edge when applying for a new job or negotiating a higher salary.
- Credit cards. While credit cards can have higher interest rates, these could be a better option if your course costs no more than a few thousand dollars — many lenders don’t offer loans for such small amounts. Consider applying for a new card with a 0% introductory APR to save on interest.
- Payment plans. Some companies that offer career development courses have interest-free payment plans that could be cheaper in the long-run.
- Ask friends and family. Your relatives and friends who believe in you might be more than willing to lend you a few thousand dollars to put toward advancing your career.
- Crowdfund. If you’re not comfortable asking to borrow a large amount of money from one or two people, consider reaching out to your social network by setting up a crowdfunding campaign.
Getting your employer to pay for it
It’s increasingly common for employers to have a career development budget for employees. They also might subscribe to sites like Lynda that offer online courses on a wide variety of topics. If your employer doesn’t have a budget for that, it could still be worth asking if they’ll cover the cost of your training program — they might even be able to find a way for you to attend the course for free.
Five tips for taking your career to the next level
- Use programs as an opportunity to find a mentor. Look for a program taught by someone you feel you could develop an informal mentoring relationship with, based on their skill set and personality.
- Keep in touch. Staying in contact with former supervisors, coworkers, teachers and other students is a great way to stay aware of new opportunities and areas for further professional development.
- Look into volunteering. Job-shadowing and volunteering can sometimes be just as helpful as enrolling in a course when it comes to making that next career move without hurting your wallet.
- Do your homework. If you do some research online, you’ll find lots of free online career development courses. For example, you can find online management courses with topics ranging from “How to Hire and Retain the Right People” to “How to Organize and Manage Your Department to Meet Goals.” OpenLearn offers free online classes on everything from “Developing High Trust Work Relationships” to “Project Management: The Start of the Project Journey.”
- Know your strengths and weaknesses. Free professional development sites like MindTool can help you figure out which skills you need to develop to perform better at work or get ahead.
Taking out a loan to invest in your future could be one of the safer moves you make when it comes to borrowing money, especially if it’s a certified course. If you just want to strengthen a few skills here and there, rather than change your job (or career), you may want to make sure your employer doesn’t offer any free resources or pay for courses before looking into loans.