Education can be incredibly expensive. With university fees constantly increasing, obtaining advanced degrees is becoming more difficult every day. So rather than burden themselves with heavy student debts, many are simply giving up their aspirations for higher education, deeming it out of reach. Others looking to study later on in life after working and starting a family, find it impossible to find the additional finances for study after paying the bills and mortgage.

Yet a lack of professional qualifications is often a major obstacle in the path to career advancement. Companies frequently hire recent graduates with advanced degrees to fill senior positions, rather than promoting ‘under-qualified’ professionals with years of practical knowledge and expertise from among their own ranks. So many professionals today are eager to obtain further education, but daunted by the tough task of funding it due to already restricted finances. Fortunately, however, there are numerous ways to advance your skills and earn qualifications whatever your situation:

Employer-Assisted Education

When employees can demonstrate that further education will benefit the companies they work for, many employers are willing to help fund courses. Advanced professional certifications are by far the most common employer-assisted programs, but some companies even pay for university degrees in certain situations.

If your current boss can’t help, however, another option is to look outside the company. So talk to headhunters and polish up your resume. Even if it means taking a temporary pay cut or moving to a lower position, finding a company that will invest in your education is a great opportunity for long-term growth—especially if your career is stagnating at your current position. Sometimes it takes a step back to make a leap forward.

Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants aren’t just for undergraduates. There are countless ways to get a free education these days. But the only people who win them are those who apply for as many as possible.

Working Days, Learning Nights

Community colleges and online courses are popular options for professionals looking to advance their expertise. If you have the patience and determination, working days and studying at night or on weekends is an inexpensive way to obtain degrees. It takes self-discipline, but this course layout can work for those who can’t afford to leave full time employment. It can take longer to complete your degree if you are limited due to family responsibilities however if it means you can maintain family life AND gain your degree, it is definitely worth the hard work.

Non-Degree Courses

There are also a multitude of free and inexpensive workshops, conferences, seminars, lectures, and non-degree courses to help professionals grow in their industries. Whether you are looking to rise in the ranks of your current company or start your own business, these resources are invaluable for obtaining the skills you’ll need to excel.

Free Resources

The Internet is by far the most powerful educational resource humans have ever had access to. So why not utilize it? MIT offers free advanced courses online, as does UC Berkeley, along with many of the world’s top institutions. Meanwhile, TED talks, YouTube tutorials, web-based universities, educational forums, and online libraries provide a wealth of knowledge. The resources to learn through self-study are more accessible and comprehensive than ever. If you have the self-disciple, there is nothing holding you back.

The point of education is to increase personal value. So programs that undermine your financial growth without providing clear long-term benefits are counterproductive. Far too many professionals today pursue higher education by common means, and fail to obtain the money saving resources within their reach. If you want to gain new skills and knowledge, you don’t have to spend all your money doing so. Simply take the time to explore your options, seek opportunities wherever you can find them, and stop relying on the traditional systems that are becoming more and more expensive every day.

About the author: Kirsten studied at university in her mid twenties. Used to the comfort of a regular income which supported the bills and mortgage, and being married with a young family, she struggled to find a way it was possible to attend university without risking her family lifestyle. However she successfully completed her degree in 2011 after studying part time, and set up her own jewellery website