Whether you hold a college degree or are trying to make it on a high school diploma, there comes a point in your career when it pays to consider going back to school. Furthering your education can open to the door to not just higher earnings but better opportunities, whether in your current industry or a new one entirely. In fact, the majority of working adults today are interested in going back to school in some shape or form, and mostly for the aforementioned reasons.

So why aren't they? You'd think money would be a primary factor, what with the cost of education being what it is. But, actually, the No. 1 reason today's working adults aren't going back to school boils down to a lack of time.

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An estimated 54% of employees say they can't pursue a degree or certification due to their work schedules, according to a University of Phoenix study, while 21% say that child care commitments are their greatest time-related barrier. Furthermore, 11% cite needing to care for nonchild family members as the reason why time is such an issue.

If you're convinced that furthering your education is the ticket to growing your career or earning more money, then it pays to carve out the time to do just that. Otherwise, you risk getting stuck in the same rut for years on end.

Is going back to school even worth it?

Of course, some folks are quick to assume that getting a degree or certification will result in an instant salary boost, and a sizable one at that. But that's not always the case. You might, for example, spend $60,000 on an advanced degree in the hopes of moving up to the next level within your industry. But what if the next level only results in a $3,000 salary bump? In that case, you might spend the next several decades paying off your graduate school loans, only to be in your 50s or 60s by the time you come out ahead financially.

That's why it's critical to have a realistic view of the sort of salary bump you might be looking at upon obtaining that extra license or degree. Job site Glassdoor has a useful "Know Your Worth" tool that gives you access to salary data, so do your research to see whether going back to school will actually help you achieve your goals.

On the other hand, money isn't the only reason to further your education. If doing so makes it possible to switch careers or land a job that brings you more satisfaction, then it may very well be worth the cost, even if it takes years just to break even.

Making it work

Even if you're convinced you don't have the time to go back to school, you'd be surprised at what you're able to accomplish if you set your mind to it. These days, there are numerous options for furthering your education, whether it's attending evening or weekend classes to getting your degree completely online.

It also pays to sit down with your manager and discuss your desire to pursue that degree or certificate. If your work schedule is the one thing that seems to be preventing you from meeting that goal, you never know what flexibility your company might be willing to offer. If you're a solid employee, your boss might allow you to leave early several nights a week to make it to classes on time or scale back your hours to allow time for studying. This especially holds true if you make it clear from the start that your goal in furthering your education is to grow within the company.

Otherwise, you might consider freelancing in your field rather than working as a permanent employee for another company. This will generally give you the option to set your own hours, thus making it more feasible to take classes in the process. Of course, not everybody has this option, but if you have the ability to venture out on your own, it pays to explore the pros and cons.

No matter how you manage to make it work, you owe it to yourself to go back to school if that's what it takes to be happier professionally. It could end up being the best career move you'll ever make.

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