Although the traditional college student is between the ages of 18 and 22, a growing number of Americans are heading to college later or going back to school to learn new skills. In 2009, about 17% of undergraduate and graduate students were 35 or older.

That percentage is expected to grow to 19% by 2020, since many people are beginning to see the value in pursuing a degree to stay competitive in the workforce. These days, getting a degree is essential for the highest-paying fields like tech.

Even jobs that don’t require a degree increasingly rely on technology, and just about everyone in the workforce needs to have at least modest tech skills to succeed.

There are many reasons people choose to go back to school, but improving your digital communication and social media skills are two major benefits of becoming a student that can help you succeed in any field.

Let’s take a look at why learning these skills are beneficial—and how you can get them while simultaneously earning a degree.

 

Why are Social Media and Tech Skills Important?

Just 20 years ago, most businesses still relied on paper-based systems. Today, most small and large business owners alike have switched to using computers and computer programs to keep track of all aspects of running their organizations.

If you don’t know how to use a computer efficiently and accurately, it will be difficult to thrive in most workplaces, particularly STEM careers like engineering and mathematics. Basic technical skills have become a requirement that’s almost as key as knowing how to read!

In addition to the tech takeover as a whole, it’s incredible how quickly social media has become such a big part of everyday life.

Back in 2005, when Facebook had only been around for a year, 5% of Americans used social media. That number has exploded, and now, 70% of the US population uses it. Even more shocking is that 98% of universities utilize Facebook for brand awareness and marketing. Some teachers are even beginning to integrate social media into their lesson plans to engage students and facilitate communication.

Today, social media isn’t just for teenagers—and it isn’t going away. You don’t have to become the next big Instagram influencer, but it is important to know the basics of why and how to use social media.

Keeping up with trends and current technology will help you maintain a optimal communication and competitive edge in the workforce, no matter what career path you’re following.

Interested in expanding your tech and social media skills? Check out some of the top online programs that can help:

 

Building Tech Skills in School

With schools increasingly relying on online resources, you don’t necessarily have to pursue a degree in computer science to build your tech skills.

Online classes are becoming more and more common, and they’re perfect for working professionals or parents who have trouble attending traditional classes. 93% of universities offer online classes, and it’s expected that half of all classes will be in an online format by 2019.

Hybrid classes combine online and traditional classroom methods, both of which can be a great way for older or veteran students to make going back to school a possibility.

Many online courses involve not just navigating an online interface, but interacting with classmates in similar ways to social media platforms. Taking these classes will force you to keep your mind and digital media skills sharp as you learn how to use all the tools required by your instructors.

Interacting with other students in this way and consciously trying to improve your technical skills will help you avoid being part of the generation gap in tech skills. In addition, you’ll be able to feel more involved with the other students, get support from your peers, and participate in discussions.

 

Get a More Lucrative or Fulfilling Career

What’s so fantastic about modern educational options is that they’re so accessible. Anyone can go back to school and take classes for personal enrichment or to complete a degree.

Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom who is preparing to re-enter the workforce when your children are older, or a young professional interested in a more specialized career path, chances are you’ll be able to find a program and financing that work for you.

Many older students are scared to go back to school—they’re worried they won’t fit in, it’ll be too expensive, or it will take too long. The beauty of online classes, however, is that they remove many of these barriers.

If you’re interested in getting a more lucrative or fulfilling career, or you simply see the value in improving your technical and social media skills, don’t hold back. Get the education you need to thrive and live your best life—regardless of your age or circumstances.