6 Skills That Might Just Be Worth Going to Classes For

by Thursday Bram · 24 comments

I’m one of those people who is constantly enrolled in some class or another. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m pursuing a degree at all times (after all, a degree isn’t always beneficial), but I find that I do better at learning some topics in a class room environment than on my own. Having the resources that go along with taking a formal class — like an instructor who is a subject matter expert — makes the process that much easier.

Actually, certain classes are especially effective when you take it with an instructor, rather than teaching yourself out of a book. Add to the fact that some of these classes actually help you get ahead in the world, and the worth of a good instructor makes certain classes worth going back to school for. Here are 6 that I highly recommend you consider:

  1. Accounting: Most of us can learn bookkeeping on our own without too much of a struggle. But accounting can be a different matter — and it’s absolutely necessary if you want to run your own business or even handle certain aspects of your own financial planning. Because of the counter-intuitive nature of certain accounting practices, I was hard put to teach the topic to myself without having an instructor to answer my questions.
  2. Writing: While improving your writing can sometimes just be a matter of practice, it’s very easy to create bad grammatical habits without an instructor’s guidance. You probably don’t need a degree in creative writing to help you with your work, but even a short class with an instructor who can critique your work can make your written communications so much better.
  3. A second language: There are certain software packages that claim to be as good as the instruction that a language teacher can offer, but if they’re flat out admitting that in-person instruction is the gold standard, why not actually take a class? Considering the changing demographics of the U.S, as well as many other countries, knowing a second language can make a world of difference, whether you’re working for an employer or you’re running your own business.
  4. Project management: The skills necessary to complete certain projects, like software development, are often something that can be self-taught. To a certain extent, you can even teach yourself to plan such projects and get them done. But a good class exposes you to potential problems and situations that you would never dream up for yourself, dramatically side stepping the trial and error process that most people end up taking.
  5. First aid and other emergency management skills: There are now entire degrees available in crisis and emergency management — and the folks with those degrees are having an easier time finding jobs right now than other job hunters. That’s because the ability to respond quickly in any kind of emergency is prized. Even a single first aid class can make a world of difference.
  6. Shop class of any type: Especially since many school districts have eliminated shop classes entirely, it can be harder to acquire the skills necessary to use tools, fix cars and handle other common situations. Just being able to skip one visit to the mechanic can often pay for such classes, making it a worthwhile venture. There’s the added benefit of getting to learn how to use a variety of tools without having to buy them all yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, as DIY has its place. However, some people just learn much faster with the help of a structured class. If this is you, these 6 skills might be a good place to start looking.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Dolores says:

    They can use a class in manners and telephone etiquette.

  • David Boutros says:

    Personally, one of the most useful classes I took in high school was typing. It was designed for boys we had 30 of us in a class room with a teacher shouting the mantra ‘palms up, fingers in home position’. It is probably one of my most used skills.

  • Ben Johnson says:

    This is very valuable article. In my lifetime, I learned most of these subjects either by accident or because I could see the need. And they have been tremendously useful. I wonder why they are not taught in High School – or at least electives.

  • dott says:

    Basic car maintenance and repair is a great idea and can be a real money saver as well, if you don’t happen to know a good mechanic. However, if we Americans EVER get the chance to be homeowners again, having access to a good course in basic emergency home repairs and maintenance including some basic carpentry lessons would be wonderful.

    I know I could have used one!

    • Ron says:

      Thanks for saying this! Home repairs should not be left up to people to learn as they go! Sometimes you must call a repairman (electrical and gas issues), but sometimes you just need to know what to to do get prepared and started to: replace a window, or paint the outside stucco wall, or stop the toilet from making that funny noise every 10 minutes!

  • M.L says:

    I would also recommend taking computer classes. When I came out of college back in 2003 and could not find any jobs (permanent or even temp), I took classes for the entire Microsoft Office suite and was able to use it to land some decent temp gigs that got me my feet wet. I also agree with Steve, learn to type. If you can type and do know MS Office well, you can get your foot in the door either for a temp or perm job more easily.

  • Judith says:

    Amen, Pam!

  • Allen says:

    Amen on the typing skills. I received very poor grades in high school in typing (before the called it keyboarding). I used the skill in the U.S. Coast Guard for ten years as a yeoman. Now I use it every day on this computer. Hunt and pecking is just too slow.

  • Steve Lee Ignacio says:

    I teach computer classes to elementary school children. They learn Word, PowerPoint, Excel, graphics programs, movie editing, internet research and more. However, before they can do any of that, they need to know how to type somewhat proficiently. Students who transfer from other schools without any typing skills are at a huge disadvantage. I start the kids typing in kindergarten. So I add typing as skill number 7 that just might be worth going to class for.

    • yourstrulysieweMD says:

      Seriously typing classes in Kindergarten?. Please let’s let our children stay children for a few years before bombarding them with scholarstic proficiencies!. In as much as we have to go with the flow, children below five don’t need computers and computing skills of any sort. learning to play, drawing, cutting, basic art, discovering nature and the environment, socializing and solving relationship conflicts with peers etc.is more of a priority!. Even kids around six years of age should have a limited, salient access and use for computers and TVs.

      • Ron says:

        yourstrulysieweMD: Bravo, well said! Our young children (below age 12) have absolutely no need to be wasting time on “typing skills!” They need to be taught the basics: reading, writing, math, science, history and PE. In my humble opinion– they also need to start learning: business accounting, financial responsibility, and social/relationship skills. I absolutely hate the fact that things such as insurance and 401k’s are self taught in life! Typing, you can learn as you go!

  • Jean says:

    I did have to consult the services of a friend who is an accounting teacher by profession to get my accounting skills up to par. Like you said, basic bookkeeping is something that isn’t too much trouble to grasp for most of us but when you get to the deeper, more complex aspects of financial planning, a better knowledge is vital.


  • anonymouse says:

    First aid? Seriously? Over any kind of computer class?

    • MPescatori says:

      Yes, for that one day when the IRS send you an email and you have a seizure while sitting at the PC… you may want somebody around with more than just “er… should I dial 999? Where’s the phone?”

  • MoneyPig says:

    I’m glad #1 on your list is Accounting. I view Accounting as the language of business; once you know it well you can visualize how well a business is doing based on it’s balance sheet, income statement, and statement of stockholder’s equity.

  • Marbella says:

    I love to read and study, but I have not enough time. the more success I have in my job, less time I have to study. I have started several courses but had to drop out due to time constraints.

    • Ee Teck Ee says:

      Dear Marbella,

      If you already have so much success in your job, why bother about study? May be you should find time to start a class on “How to be successful in your job.” Many would like to attend such a class. I am not joking.

      Ee Teck Ee

  • Sam says:

    Thanks for the tips. Actually these skills can be acquired over a period of time by experience, but nevertheless they are good to take a course and study.

  • Watch says:

    Why is information technology not on the list, since everyone needs a computer and everyone needs to learn how to use it.

    • Dale Smith says:

      Information technology is probably not on the list of essentials because one has to know how to read and to write in order to comprehend and to relay the content of the software and hardware instruction manuals and online guides. The list is composed of fundamental skills; and IT draws on those basics.

      • Rex Remes says:

        Interesting point but items 2 and 3 (a second language and project management) also draw on reading/writing.

    • Anthony says:

      Because it’s assumed that everyone born in the last 30 years can at least operate a web browser.

      • Louisa says:

        Wrong to assume such a thing. I’m no longer shocked at the people I meet who don’t understand what a browser is and have never sent email. I’m also no longer surprised at the number of people (including college students) who have no idea how to use a library. Overestimating and underestimating people is a delicate business.

  • Doctor Stock says:

    These are some great ideas. I suppose I’m at the point where the more practical, the better. I’m concentrating on other investment classes right now while continuing to learn. I am getting ready for 2012 when I take on options trading!

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