Have you taken a class lately, or plan to soon? According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 73% of U.S. adults consider themselves lifelong learners, pursuing knowledge and skills for both personal and career advancement. The study reveals that Americans prefer learning in-person over online methods, and that their strongest motivations to learn include both getting ahead and personal fulfillment.
Lifelong learning for professional development might include attending conferences, reading professional publications, or studying for a certification. In the personal realm, lifelong learning could consist of reading a how-to blog, taking a community education drawing class, or joining a group to practice a hobby.
For instruction-based learning, Pew learned that, while online learning opportunities serve many needs, most adults prefer to learn in person. A large majority of both personal and professional learners preferred “place-based learning” at a location such as a school, library, community center, conference or other venue over online learning.
Reasons for engaging in learning activities varied. Workers who sought learning for professional development named these motivations:
- 55% wanted to develop or maintain job skills
- 36% were working toward job-related licensure or certification
- 24% intended to seek a raise or promotion
- 13% took training to get a new job at a different organization
- 7% hoped to stave off a layoff by updating their training
One of the greatest rewards of formal learning identified by survey participants was to expand their professional network, cited by 65% of learners. About half noted that training helped them advance in their organization, about a third landed a new job with the help of training, and another third found a new career direction thanks to professional learning activities.
Those engaged in learning to advance personal interests had different purposes in mind:
- 80% sought personal fulfillment
- 64% intended to gain skills that would allow them to help others
- 60% had extra time to pursue an interest
- 36% wanted to turn a hobby into a paying occupation
- 33% were developing skills to assist the children in their lives with schoolwork
Personal learners found a range of social and psychological benefits from learning activities: nearly 90% stated that they felt more capable and well-rounded, about 70% gained new perspectives, nearly 2/3 made new friends and connected to community, and others started volunteering as a result of personal learning activities.