Should I Get a Master’s Degree?

master'sdegreeIf you’re looking to accelerate your career or start a new career altogether, you’ve probably considered getting a master’s degree.  I’ve been out of school for two years and I find myself asking this question a lot lately. Going back to school is a huge decision that should be carefully considered and planned out. Here are a few important factors to think about when considering going back to school:

Value

One of the most important things you need to consider is the value of the degree. What value will this degree bring to your future and your career? Make sure you know exactly why you want a master’s degree and what you expect to get from completing the degree.

To understand the potential value of a master’s degree, it’s critical that you do your research. Look at employment and salary statistics for your given degree as well as the long-term career growth opportunities. What kinds of jobs can you can get with this master’s degree? Don’t solely rely on what the university may tell you about the careers and salaries of its graduates. I think Universities tend to inflate these figures to market their programs.

Try connecting {networking!} with a recent graduate of the school. Ask them about their experience in the program. Did they like their classes? Was the program useful? How has it benefited their career? Don’t be shy, people tend to like giving their opinions and advice. Plus, you are much more likely to get honest answers from them vs. an admissions counselor trying to get your business and enroll in the university.

Time

Getting a master’s degree in any field will require a lot of work. School can be very stressful and time consuming. Don’t underestimate the time it will require. Incase it’s been awhile since you were in school think: lectures, projects, group work, papers and exams.

Adding a master’s degree program to your {probably} already busy schedule will require you to sacrifice home and family time as well. Just make sure you think about how this will affect your career and personal life. Will your spouse need to pick up extra chores and child responsibilities while you are at school? Make sure you discuss expectations and schedules with your spouse before committing to a graduate program. The best way to combat a crazy busy schedule is by getting organized.

Money

Going back to graduate school is probably going to cost you a lot of money. Make sure you know exactly how much it’s going to cost and how you are going to pay for it. If you are considering financing your education with student loans, make sure you know what those payments are going to look like when you graduate. Student loans are not fun to pay back.

Look for free money. Make the effort to look for scholarships. It seems like there are tons of opportunities out there that are well worth the effort of applying. If you are working, see if your employer offers tuition reimbursement for your studies. Some companies offer extremely generous tuition packages for a commitment to stay at the company a few years after you’ve completed your degree.

Don’t forget to factor in the “other” costs of school such as text books, school supplies, parking passes, etc. You may also find yourself eating out more for lunches and dinners as you will probably have less free time to plan meals, grocery shop and cook.

Conclusion

Deciding to go back to school is a big decision. I’ve been thinking about graduate school for over a year and am still not sure if I want to do it. There is no one correct answer for everyone and you have to listen to your gut.  A master’s degree is a huge time and money commitment. Do as much research as you can so that you make the best decision for you and your family.

Are you considering starting a master’s degree program?

 

Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Comments

  1. I was considering an MBA for a long time but now I’m leaning towards not getting one. I’d rather pursue my side hustles and build some small businesses in my spare time versus sacrificing my nights and weekends working on MBA course load. Not going is more in line with my long-term goals. At the same time I’ve been tempted to get a CMA since I don’t have a CPA, but I run into the same time problems. My wife is getting a masters starting this Fall, but she is in psychology and having a masters versus not having a masters makes a huge difference in employment opportunities and in turn, income.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…Is Roku a Good Alternative to Cable?My Profile

  2. Sounds like you are carefully considering your options DC. If I didn’t have to work full time and money wasn’t an issue, I would really consider going back to school simply because I enjoy school but unfortunately that’s not an option! I have a CPA license but no CMA. I actually know very little about the CMA certification.
    Liz recently posted…Should I Get a Master’s Degree?My Profile

  3. When I graduated, I wanted to go back to get a MBA. After some time and a career change, I realized that my ROI on the degree was just not there. It would take too long to get a return on the degree, so I declined to go back.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted…My 2014 Goals and AspirationsMy Profile

  4. Going back to get an advance degree is definitely not a decision to take lightly. I went back to school and received a law degree. Most would think that it was a great return on my investment, but I’m not sure. I know many who went to law school and are in 6 figure debt, and no their job prospects aren’t that great either. Yes schools often inflate the value of their degree. Ultimately, I think it was worth it for me even with the amount of debt I had to take, but it’s not a clear winner. Plus, I was younger back then and was working full-time and going to school in the evenings. Not sure I’d be able to do that nowadays with a family.
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  5. I graduated college in 2006, and considered goin to grad school just bc I didn’t know what else I wanted to know. The first time I applied to grad school, I applied to USC journalism school. Once I got accepted, the 40k a year price tag scared me away. The second time, I applied to law school. After studying for the LSAT, I was over it. Then I applied for public relations at a state college. Again, deferred that…. seeing a trend here? Each time I applied was for all the wrong reasons. It was because I just didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I figured grad school would have the answer. I am now in a job that I know I will stay for a VERY long time. Turns out they pay for 75% of grad school. So in March 2013, I started my MPA. I’ll be done in March 2015. I am VERY happy with my decision because I know now that this is what I am meant to do. MY degree will help me advance at work and it will actually be useful. I think too many people go to grad school for the paper, rather than for what the paper will do for their career. I don’t think it’s worth the financial investment unless you’re sure you’re going to get a return.
    Newlyweds on a Budget recently posted…On Losing Weight, “Dieting,” and Getting FitMy Profile

    • I know a lot of people who go to grad school simply because they don’t really know what else to do or really what it is that they WANT to do. Congrats on finding a job that you love and also for the awesome perk of the tuition being covered 75%. I can’t say that I love my job but I do appreciate it and am thankful for the stability
      Liz recently posted…Trading City Living for Simpler Suburb LifeMy Profile

  6. Colleges and universities have really done a great job through their online learning initiatives in assisting people who want to return to school to get a Masters degree. It still requires time but the ability to do work from home instead of traveling to campus makes returning to school much more doable. With a full-time job to manage, I don’t know how my wife could have done her Master’s any other way than online.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted…The Attitudes of a Successful LandlordMy Profile

    • Very true Brian! it is great that universities have adapted to the digital world and now offer classes and degrees online. I haven’t had a chance to take one before but I would love it if I could find a master’s degree online. Working full-time and going to school just sounds exhausting.
      Liz recently posted…Trading City Living for Simpler Suburb LifeMy Profile

  7. I have always wanted to get my MBA but I don’t think it would do very much for my career at this point. It would be super expensive and that’s about it.
    SuburbanFinance recently posted…Get In Shape, On The CheapMy Profile

  8. I’ve seriously considered going back to school for my masters, but then I think, why? There isn’t really something I want to do that requires it. I find so many of my peers simply go to school cause they can’t get a job. I don’t know if that’s a good excuse.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…When FREE Isn’t Worth It.My Profile

  9. I’ve read a lot about the ROI of master’s degrees and it’s not great.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…Does Churning Credit Cards Hurt Your Credit?My Profile

  10. I think it all boils down to a cost benefit analysis. I had to have my masters degree (social work) or I couldn’t get licensed to practice. While the actual cost wasn’t cheap, I couldn’t get the job I wanted without the degree. More than the money, I considered the 2 years I’d be taking off from my career (and retirement savings) to go to school. Overall, I’m happy with my decision, but I know a lot of people who have gotten the MBA, or MS and aren’t happy in the end.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted…5 Tips for Planting the Seeds of WealthMy Profile

  11. I would say if your goal is to climb the corporate ladder, definitely go get your graduate degree. I was in a weekend program which allowed you to work full time and then take classes on Friday evenings and Saturdays. It was a bit of work but a lot of fun.