If you want to advance in your career, consider returning to school. Getting an advanced degree has long been a sure path to future career success, but it may no longer be the only one in an age of rising student debt.

For workers already struggling under the weight of their student loans, accruing more debt may not be an appealing option. In addition to the cost, getting a higher degree may require an extended absence from the workplace, and the sudden loss of income can create even more financial stress.

The good news is that there are ways to build career skills without returning to class. If you are willing to think outside the box and be creative, you can build on your skills while gaining new ones that might speed your trip up the proverbial corporate ladder. Here are five practical ways to enhance your career skills without returning to school.

#1. Pursue an Industry Certification

From project management to information technology to finance, industry certifications demonstrate real-world skills. Pursuing such a certification can give workers the competitive advantage they need, qualifying them for promotions that would otherwise be out of reach.

Industry certification is a perfect way to improve career skills. The tests are rigorous and exacting, and a passing score clearly demonstrates mastery in a particular field or subject. Industry certifications are also standardized, making it easy for workers to move between companies when the opportunity arises. The fact that these certifications are widely respected adds to their appeal. Last, the certification tracks are often concise – weeks or months instead of many years.

#2. Seek Out a Mentor

If there is a senior manager you admire, seeking out a mentor/mentee relationship with that executive could be a great way to grow your career and build your set of skills. Mentor relationships in the workplace can be remarkably effective, especially in an age when baby boomers are retiring, and skilled worker shortages are looming.

There are other mentor opportunities as well, even some that are outside of the workplace. Whether formal or informal, learning from someone with direct experience in a subject can be invaluable and a great way to advance your career.

#3. Attend Educational Seminars

Going back to school to pursue an advanced degree is a significant commitment, and not just in terms of dollars and cents. Getting that degree may take years and require some time away from the workplace.

Attending educational seminars could be the perfect solution if you are looking for an effective way to gain real-world skills. These seminars are far shorter than college classes, often occurring over a week or weekend. At the same time, their intensive nature allows instructors to pack much learning into a short course, teaching just what students need to know.

#4. Online Learning

In the internet age, attending class without leaving home is possible. Online learning is an excellent alternative to traditional career development courses, and your employer may be willing to pick up the tab.

Online learning can take many forms, from courses that provide college credit toward a degree to intense seminars that provide concentrated training in a specific area. No matter their condition, online courses are more convenient and often more affordable than their in-person counterparts.

#5. Volunteerism

Volunteering in the community can provide a wonderful sense of satisfaction, but those volunteer opportunities are also chances to network, meet new people, and learn new skills.

The relationships you build, the skills you learn, and the interpersonal abilities you develop can all help you in your career. Volunteerism is an underappreciated way to grow career skills, but its impact is insignificant.

Returning to school and pursuing an advanced degree is one way to move forward in your career, but it is far from the only way. Suppose you enjoy your current job and want to continue it. In that case, the alternatives listed above allow you to enjoy the best of both worlds – a thriving workplace experience and the potential for future promotion and growth.