I can’t afford to give up my job to get qualified – Earning and Learning – Laura Lane

No matter of your age or current skills or how long you have worked in your job role, at some point you may feel the need to move on or you might become interested in retraining.  The world is such a big place and there are so many opportunities out there, so why not take advantage of these?

Where do you begin.  

You may already be working in a full time role when considering your next career move.  I was once in this position, so I would spend most evenings doing my research as to what I wanted to do and how to go about it.  It’s important, as part of this process, to consider whether it is viable to study whilst working full time.

The first thing I would recommend you do is to fully research your career path.  There are websites and services out there to offer advice and support, including CACHE Alumni.  Spend time reading though the Career Information Section on this site  or speak to someone who can advise accordingly.  You could ask the advisors here at CACHE Alumni by emailing [email protected], or for truly independent advice, you can find out all of the ways that it’s possible to talk to the National Careers Service.

I found help through my local college who pointed me in the direction of a course tutor for the subject I was interested in studying.  They spent time with me, finding out my current skills and if I would be able to transfer any of these.   They also made me aware of how much time I would have to spend studying and actually attending college, so before I embarked on anything I had to plan if this would work out.  I wanted to be realistic, so I looked at the impact on my home and family life, as well as my full time job.

I went for the college option as, for me, this was local to where I lived and I wanted to be in an environment where I could go somewhere to learn and meet others who had the same interests as me.  The college also offered funded courses, and I was able to take advantage of this.  This meant that studying was as expensive as I had anticipated when doing my research.  The college was term time only, so I knew I did not need to go in every week and they also offered the course as an evening session, which I took advantage of once a week after I had finished work.


Attending college after a full day of work meant that this one day a week was a long day but I looked forward to it and enjoyed learning a new skill.  It’s important to consider the length of your days and what will work for you when deciding how studying would work best for you.

If college after work isn’t an option for you, there are lots of other options for study.

One of the options is online learning, where you may be less likely to find options that are fully funded, but where funding is not available, you will often find flexible payment schemes to suit all budgets.  I found this to be a real benefit, as I could pay a small deposit and then spread the cost over a set amount of months.  You are able to do the distance courses as and when it suits you in some instances, so this can be a real advantage if you have a family or work longer hours and can’t get to a college.  Even distance learning courses that have specific submission deadlines for workbooks and online modules won’t usually dictate when your study takes place, so whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, you’ll be able to find time to fit your learning style and other commitments.

You can complete distance learning courses online or on paper and you might be able to find distance learning by speaking to the Customer Support Team of the Awarding Organisation.   You can contact CACHE’s Customer Support Team on 0345 347 2123.   For me online was great, as I had a log in where I could go in at anytime and get cracking with my coursework.  As far as support goes, with most training providers, you get a dedicated tutor who helps and supports you throughout so you always have someone to talk to.  The disadvantages of distance learning, however, are that you need to ensure you have self-discipline and you’ll need to be organised and schedule in when you are going to work on your course so that you meet deadlines.  Remember that you are doing this for your new career, so you want to ensure you have the time and are committed to learning.

Balancing your time

So, let’s assume that you have decided what career path you would like and have found a course that will suit you.  The next question you need to ask yourself is, ‘how will I plan my time to ensure I am meeting all of the course deadlines?’

It might help to have a diary, or calendar where you can schedule in your study hours.  If you have a busy social life or have other people to plan around, it can be easy to neglect your own commitments if you haven’t set time aside specifically.  Sometimes after a long day you just want to get home, kick off your shoes, and rest, but bear in mind that, once the studying is over, you should be able to start moving towards a career that you really want!  I found it easiest to set aside a couple of evenings per week to study or, when I was studying at college one night a week, I liked to factor in some time on the weekend to look over my college work, which allowed me to concentrate on this without distractions.

If you have a family at home with you then you’ll probably want to consider their needs too.  Work-life balance is important and it’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself.


The benefits to training for a new career

Having a job and studying at the same time can help to show future employers that you are willing to work hard and put extra effort in when needed.  Training for a new career will hopefully improve your future prospects and help you climb the ladder to where you want to be, but can also be helpful in your current role and help you to develop a wider understanding of why things work the way that they do.  You may need to achieve several courses before you reach your end goal, so will learn many new skills and gain valuable knowledge along your journey.  Don’t forget to add your new qualifications and any training that you’ve completed to Your Learning Record in CACHE Alumni, to help you with future applications and with keeping track.



Gain experience

Before committing to training or a new qualification, you might want to try out the job role you think you’d like, to make sure that this really is the best option for you.  There are a number of websites that you can go to where they detail job descriptions and different careers (see links) and it is a good idea to have a look around and make sure you really understand the role that you’re training for, to make sure that you’re not wasting time, and possibly money, training for something that isn’t right for you. . If possible, you could even approach employers in that area to ask if you can volunteer for a day or go along for a couple of hours to shadow and see what is involved in the job, which would give you a chance to speak to people that are in that role.  There is no harm in changing your mind, so consider it a win if you leave knowing that this isn’t what you want after all!

If you need advice on finding suitable courses, qualifications or other learning, or just want to talk to an advisor about your option, please get in touch with the CACHE Alumni team by email at [email protected]

If you want more urgent advice, or would like to talk to someone in real time, you can contact the National Careers Service using the details here;