A friend of mine recently completed his graduate program and I had a chance to discuss his experience and decision making process for enrolling. After he got his Bachelor’s degree, he worked for 4 years in a job that he feared would not yield much room for growth. While the real world experience was exciting for him, over time he realized that in order to grow professionally, he would need to acquire a Master’s degree in a specialized field of study. He quit his job, enrolled in a nearby University, spent two years to complete the program, and now has a higher paying job close to what he was hoping to do long term.
If this scenario sounds familiar or if you have been considering a similar plunge into obtaining a graduate degree, you may find that the transition isn’t always as smooth as it was for my friend. There are many advantages to going back to school, but there are also quite a few pitfalls to be aware of. The purpose of this post will be to guide you through the three essential things to consider before deciding to pursue a graduate program.
- Cost: One of the biggest reasons people put off graduate school is the heavy financial commitment necessary to obtain the degree that you are seeking. MBA programs, for example, can cost over $100,000 to complete. This could leave you with the burden of paying back high interest student loans or cause you to lose a chunk of any nest egg you may saved over your career. Ideally, your current employer will help subsidize the cost of a graduate program and offer a guaranteed salary increase upon completion. Not only do you have to consider the financial implications of paying for school, but you also must absorb the likely loss in income if you decide to go to school full time without a source of income. On the bright side, having a graduate degree directly correlates to higher gross earnings over your lifetime so the return on investment will eventually outweigh the upfront costs.
- Advancement in Career: A benefit to enrolling in graduate schools is the ensuing advancement in your career you can expect. Of course, with this advancement comes more responsibility, but the responsibility is the reason you can expect to earn a higher income over your lifetime. Many individuals also develop a strong network of individuals while in grad school because you are all like minded and have similar career interests. This is invaluable while in a job search because it will likely result in more job leads and hopefully more chances to grow in your profession. Finally, while real world experience is always highly valuable, graduate programs can offer the latest education for in demand skill sets and attributes that will make you more attractive in the job market.
- Reason for Enrolling: It is extremely important to know exactly why you are going back to school in the first place. Too many times I hear from people who regret going back to grad school because they realize they rushed into the decision and didn’t know what they really wanted. Being unhappy with your current job or not having luck in your job search does not automatically mean you need to invest in a graduate program. Take the time to understand what your goals are, decide if graduate school will help you achieve those goals, and figure out if there are alternatives you can pursue to help you move forward without going back to school. If in the end you come to the conclusion that it is the best option for you and your family, go for it!
Hopefully this post has illustrated the important factors regarding enrolling in graduate school and why you should tread carefully when deciding your best course of action. You may end up like my friend and have a higher paying job on the path to your dream career, but just make sure you do the research first. We wish you the best of luck as you navigate this very important decision.