Going Back to School for a Second Career

Time for something new

What do pro athletes do after they retire? Some may go on to coaching, sports broadcasting, or management, even entrepreneurship developing and retailing their own line of sports ware or gear. Others do something completely different.

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Take former NFL player Dexter Jackson. Before being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was attending Appalachian State University on a football scholarship. When he left, he only had one semester left of courses he needed to complete his degree.

A sports injury in 2013 took Jackson away from the professional football field. “I had to make a choice,” says Jackson, as reported by On Common Ground News (May 17, 2014). “I could get down about my current situation or I could accomplish another goal. After speaking with my mom and an academic counselor at Appalachian State, I decided to go back and obtain my degree in criminal justice.”

Jackson now works for the records division full time for the DeKalb County District Attorney office. He is described as a “tremendous asset” by the District Attorney, Robert James. According to On Common Ground News,   Jackson says, “Coming to work day-in and day-out, I see myself growing professionally in a career that I love.”

Are you considering changing careers, either out of necessity or because you have your heart set on an occupation within the criminal justice system?  Or are you wishing to go back to school to upgrade your education in order to rise up the ladder to a more senior position?

This desire or need may be more realistic than you think.

Online Criminal Justice Programs

There are a number of criminal justice schools that offer programs that are completely online. This allows you the flexibility to complete courses at your own pace and place. This way completing your degree can be worked around your work, family and daily life schedule. There are online schools that offer criminal justice degrees as well as programs under the umbrella of criminal justice, from legal and paralegal studies to law enforcement administration and homeland security.

Part Time or Short Time

Some criminal justice schools also offer the option of completing a degree on campus, but part-time. This allows students with already busy lives to complete their education too. Some programs (such as a Master’s of Criminal Justice) are even geared specifically to adult learners already in a career, with courses run during evenings and/or weekends. Find out from the schools you are thinking about attending about their flexible learning options.

If you are currently working in a criminal justice field but want to rise up the ranks or transition to another criminal justice profession, some criminal justice programs offer part time degree programs, or even short term certificate programs, for this too.


If you are thinking of going to college or university to change careers, for the first time as an adult learner or to finish a degree after taking a break, chances are you are no longer a teenager straight out of high school.

The great thing about this is that it opens up the doors to new types of funding assistance, like scholarships and grants, offered by schools, organizations and governmental agencies.

Whatever your situation, find out if there is a funding option for “adult learners” or “non-traditional students” from prospective schools and state government agencies. You can even do a Google search detailing your situation (for example, “single parent scholarships” or “paralegal studies scholarship”…) to find relevant organizations that offer funding.

Those finishing up with the military have a number of options too, such as through GI Bill programs offered through the VA. DANTES is also a great resource for those retiring from the military.


Finally, regarding the Free the Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), last year U.S. News’ Kelsey Sheehey reported, “It’s not the FAFSA you remember. If it’s been decades since you applied for financial aid, you’re in for a treat. The free federal application no longer requires mounds of paperwork.”

The article added that it is beneficial for mature students to complete the FAFSA, and it’s not just a gateway to loans, but also scholarships and grants. Plus, “Starting at age 24, students are evaluated based on their own earnings and may be eligible for additional funding—often free money that does not need to be repaid—than those who took a more conventional collegiate path.”