Expand Skills

This section will help you learn about ways to expand your skills. You will list the skills you need to learn and where to get them before you start the job search. 




Get Job Skills

Increasing your job skills is one of the best things you can do to improve your chances of finding a job and being competitive in the workforce.

There are some things you can do to expand your skills now.

 Online Resources to Expand Skills

Formal Education Pays Off

Did you know that according to an employer survey at least 70% of jobs require education and training beyond a high school diploma?* It is very likely that you may be looking into occupations that require more schooling. As you weigh the pros and cons of going to school, think about how education pays. People with an education beyond high school tend to make more money, have more job options and have shorter periods of unemployment.

Unemployment Rate* Education Level Typical Weekly Earnings*
12.4% Less than High School $471
8.3% High School Graduate $652
7.7% Some College, No Degree $727
6.2% Associate Degree $785
4.5% Bachelor's Degree $1,066
3.5% Master's Degree $1,300
2.1% Professional Degree $1,735
2.5% Doctorate $1,624

Source:  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012 unemployment and wage data.

How to Gain Skills

Do you have the skills and education that employers want? Not sure? One of the best ways to expand your skills is through education. Make sure that your education connects to occupations that fit your interests and skills. Here are five steps to help you explore the right education for you.

Step One: Identify the skills in occupations that interest you.
Using the Occupational Skills (pdf) list your desired occupations and the education and skills required to be a competitive candidate for the position.
You can find the education requirements for each occupation by visiting Texas CARES.

Step Two: Look at your education options.

Here are some educational options for you to think about. You can also go to your library for additional local options. 

Description and Websites
An apprenticeship program is a temporary training program provided by an employer. It helps potential employees learn the skills of an occupation or trade. Students learn the standard skills in a classroom. They also learn on the job and sometimes get paid. Sometimes they are supported by trade or labor groups. Texas Apprenticeship Programs
Online learning is a great option for many students. You can take one course, or you can earn a certificate or a degree. For some students, online learning can make it easier to go to school. The Workforce Online Learning Information Portal provides links to online education and training programs. Virtual College of Texas
Adult Basic
Adult Basic Education classes are free. They help people who are 16 and older and who are not in school. Students can improve their basic skills such as reading, math, listening, and speaking. Some classes help prepare people for better jobs or for getting ready for more education. Harris County Adult Education
U.S. Military The military offers hundreds of positions that can help you get skills and meet your goals. 
Licenses Licenses are the official recognition of your knowledge and skills that are required for some jobs. Licenses often vary by state. It is against the law to work in these jobs without a license. These workers often need to keep going to school to keep up their license. Interested students should ask if a school will prepare for a license. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
Degrees A degree is given by a college or university. It means that you completed a course of study. An associate’s degree usually takes 2 years or less. A bachelor’s degree usually takes 4 or more years. You may need to take classes to get ready for college. 
Certifications Certifications are tests that measure your work knowledge. Some employers like hiring people with these skills. Interested students should ask if their school will prepare them for the certification exam. Many certifications require a degree. CareerInfonet will help you explore occupations that require certification.

Step Three: Look at what the schools offer.

Do you need to go to school? Make a list of what you want from a school or program. Then, research schools and programs that fit your list. You can use your library to find your education options. Schools tend to tell you about strengths and may hide their weaknesses. Only you can decide if a school is the right one to help you meet your career goals.

Use the tips listed below to see if you agree with the school's claims.

Step Four: Track Your Research on Schools.
Use the School Research Worksheet (pdf)  to record what you learned from talking with schools.

Step Five: Choose Education Options.
Hopefully you have found several education options that fit your goals. How do you choose? Think about the research you did about occupations and schools.

Pay for Your Education

Can you afford the education you need to achieve your goals? You have many options to get training or a degree. Start planning now how to pay for your education.

What are your financial aid choices?
Financial aid is money that helps you pay for school or training. Most students get financial aid that is used to pay for tuition, books, or other costs.

Types of Financial Aid
Grants and scholarships are awards you don't have to pay back. Grants mostly come from the government, such as the Federal Pell Grant. Scholarships can come from a school, community group, business, or the government. Some scholarships are for people who don't have much money. Others are for people who are good at sports, have good grades, or a special talent. Check with the school you want to go to for scholarships that fit you.
A loan is money you borrow. You have to pay back a loan with interest. There are many kinds of loans. Each has a different interest rate and rules. Some well-know loans are the Stafford, Perkins, PLUS, and SELF.
Work study is a job offered through the school. It helps you earn money to pay for your education. You can find work study listings at your campus Career Center.

Online Financial Aid Resources

Apply to School

Applying to college and certification programs can help you meet your life and career goals. Most colleges have conditions for enrollment, so be sure to:

Get help from the school if you need it to apply.

Tips for Applying to College
  • Start early.
    Are you going to a degree program? Contact the schools of your choice 12 to 18 months before you plan to start. You can get in touch with a short-term training program about a month ahead of time. Make sure you know the schools rules for admission. Do they want you to have good grades or take an admissions test? Talk to the schools admissions office to find out.
  • Choose several schools.
    Apply to up to six different schools for degree programs. It's good to have a back-up plan in case your first choice falls through. If you can't afford to pay the application fees, ask if you can have them waived due to your financial situation.
  • Apply.
    Make a checklist of each school's admission steps since every school can have different deadlines. Ask for help from your family or career coach to organize your lists. Know what day each application is due. Keep all of your school information in one place.
  • Read your mail.
    Check mail from schools immediately. A letter might tell you how to register for classes or contain financial aid information. 

Do you need your credentials evaluated and transferred from another country?
World Educational Service can help you with that. 

Keep Advancing Your Career

It is important to keep learning. At every step, think about how to expand your skills. You’ll impress employers. You’ll also feel more confident. Continuous learning will also help assure job security.

Expand your skills while in school.

Getting good grades is not enough to impress most employers. Get involved in activities to expand your skills. When you graduate, you'll be better prepared to look for jobs.

Expand your skills while you are working.

Learn about the gaps in your skills, knowledge, or credentials.

Stay current in your field.

All workers should look at their skills and improve them.

You are now ready to move on to Step 5: Find a Job.