Higher education can make you more attractive to employers -- and it can make a huge difference in your salary. According to a 2011 report from the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce, over the span of a lifetime, workers with a bachelor's degree earned an average of a million dollars more than workers with only a high school diploma. Workers with master's degrees earn about $400,000 more than those holding only bachelor's degrees [source: The College Payoff].
Look into programs at different universities and institutions to find the best value. If you have a job, your employer might offer a tuition assistance program to defray some of the costs of your coursework. If you're out of a job, many states offer education and training incentives for the unemployed. There are a range of federal and state grant programs as well as tax credits and deductions that can lessen the cost of furthering your education.
For more targeted skills, consider enrolling in a certification program. Certification programs usually are less costly and less time-consuming than pursuing a degree, yet still provide workers with salary-boosting skills or qualifications to transition into a new career. Certification programs are particularly popular with employees in the healthcare, education and information technology industries [source: Kern].