More than Half of Working Adults Plan to go Back to School and the Majority will Take an Online Course, Reveals University of Phoenix Survey

Nearly 60 percent of workers plan to take an online course; adults 25 to 34 more likely than other age groups

Dec 19, 2012, 07:00 ET from University of Phoenix

PHOENIX, Dec. 19, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- While a slow economy can give the impression that things are standing still, nearly nine-in-ten (89 percent) employed Americans believe there is still room to grow in their current careers, according to a recent survey from University of Phoenix®. The survey reveals that many Americans have education in their short-term plans and that the majority of working adults plan to take an online course to advance their careers.


Forty-one percent of Americans who are not currently in school full-time, plan to return to school at some point in the future, with 64 percent of these education-seekers expecting to do so in the next two years. Working adults are even more likely to go back to school with 54 percent saying they will head back to school.

"There is a skills gap in America. Employers have jobs available, but many companies are having a difficult time finding workers with the right skills to fill those positions," said Dr. Bill Pepicello, president of University of Phoenix. "At the University, we see many working adults pursuing education to address their own skills gaps and position themselves for career growth. Technology is helping to bridge this gap – we are making education more personal, more social, more accessible and more aligned with the dynamics in the workplace."

Interest in online education courses
The survey finds that nearly half (48 percent) of Americans say they are currently or will take an online class to advance their careers. The desire to take online courses is not limited to the youngest adults. In fact, adults between the ages of 25-34 were most likely to say they are currently taking an online course or plan to in the future (74 percent), followed by those ages 18-24 (63 percent). Fifty-eight percent of adults ages 35-44 plan to take an online course, followed by 46 percent of adults ages 45-54 and 21 percent of adults 55 or older.

Americans who are currently employed are even more likely to take online courses, with 59 percent of working adults saying they are currently taking such a course or plan to in the future. Of these, 10 percent are currently taking an online course and more than half (52 percent) intend to do so within in the next 12 to 18 months.

Value of education
Those with bachelor's degrees cite tangible benefits in the workplace to having this level of education. More than three quarters (78 percent) of those with a bachelor's degree who have ever worked say their education positively influenced being hired, compared to 41 percent of their counterparts who have worked, but never earned a bachelor's degree.

  • 63 percent of those with bachelor's degrees or higher say they believe that their education led to more responsibility compared to 33 percent of those without a bachelor's degree
  • 60 percent of those with bachelor's degrees or higher say they believe that their education positively affected their ability to get promoted, compared to 32 percent without bachelor's degree
  • Those with bachelor's degrees also say they perceive that their education led to other benefits including receiving raises (58 percent), keeping a job (58 percent) and being given more management opportunities (57 percent)

Skills gap – what workers want to learn
Nearly nine-in-ten (89 percent) working Americans believe there is still room for them to grow in their current careers, and can point to at least one skill they will need to learn to take their jobs to the next level. Topping this list are leadership (47 percent), decision-making (41 percent), strategic thinking (41 percent), problem-solving (38 percent) and multi-tasking (38 percent) skills.

  • More than one-third (36 percent) of employed Americans who think there is room to get to the next level of their careers, say they need additional education to do so
  • Nearly three-in-five (58 percent) Americans who are not currently enrolled in school full-time believe that going back to school would be crucial if they were considering a new career path
  • More than three quarters (78 percent) of Americans think it is important to have a college degree in today's job market

Educational motivators: professional growth, personal growth, family
For many adults, tangible work-related benefits influence their decisions to go back to school. More than half (58 percent) of working adults who plan to go back to school will do so to earn more money, followed by 47 percent who want to pursue a new career and 43 percent who want to grow in their current field.

  • Personal growth also plays a role with 50 percent wanting to achieve a personal goal, 48 percent wanting to take on a new challenge and 42 percent wanting to keep their minds sharp
  • Family Matters: For more than a third (37 percent) of Americans, going back to school stems from a desire to make their relatives proud and 39 percent of parents would pursue more schooling to show their children how important it is to get a college degree

Get the most out of educational experiences
"If students are returning to the classroom after many years, they will find that the learning tools and platforms have significantly changed, but this is good news for working adults," said Pepicello. "The classroom continues to evolve to more closely mirror the workplace and the skills employers demand – essentially bridging the gap between theory and practice."

University of Phoenix offers tips to help working adults understand how to get the most out of their educational experiences.

1. Students should not wait until they are in degree programs to research careers. It is not unusual to shift interests while in school, but those who start their programs with their desired career in mind, often get more out of the experience. These students choose projects, write papers and participate in class discussions with their career in mind and are able to translate their classwork into actionable items in the workplace. Prospective and current students should research specific positions and career paths, take career and skills assessments and develop learning plans with their academic advisors.

2. Understand and leverage the available resources. The learning experience for students grows more customized each day and students have an array of resources available to help them understand and apply content. Today students can participate in ongoing class discussions from anywhere using a smart phone; tutoring tools provide context as students are doing homework; and textbooks and supplemental materials are available online. Prospective and current students should research and leverage available learning tools as they pursue education.

3. Gain buy-in of key stakeholders. Returning to college is a big decision that affects not only the students, but the stakeholders in their lives. Prospective students should discuss education with key stakeholders including family, friends, co-workers and bosses. If stakeholders feel invested, they can support and help students stay motivated. At work, students can discuss ways they can bring classroom learning into the workplace to benefit all team members and the individual work product.

4. Grow time management skills. The majority of University of Phoenix students are working adults who balance school with family and work obligations. It is important to designate specific study time each day or week. Similar to planning for deadlines at work, create a success plan by breaking up larger assignments into smaller manageable pieces to avoid being overwhelmed.

To learn more about University of Phoenix's efforts to help close the skills gap in the American workforce, visit

The University of Phoenix Education survey was conducted by Kelton, between Nov. 1 and Nov. 7, 2012, among 1,019 nationally representative Americans ages 18 and over, using an online survey. Quotas regarding the amount of respondents in standard demographics including age, gender, region, and ethnicity are set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the entire U.S. population ages 18 and over.

About Kelton
Kelton is a market research and strategy consultancy that works with many of the world's largest and most recognizable brands to help them better understand and connect with consumers. Kelton provides highly customized qualitative, quantitative, innovation and design research for a wide variety of companies across multiple sectors, including many in the Fortune 500. For more information, please see

About University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help students balance education and life in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, challenging courses and interactive learning can help students pursue personal and career aspirations without putting their lives on hold. As the flagship university of  Apollo Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: APOL), University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit

SOURCE University of Phoenix