It’s hard to decide whether going back for an advanced degree is a good or a bad move. I know many people who have studied for two years, only to find that the degree didn’t have it’s intended goal. That said, I also know many individuals who found their advanced education hugely helpful in making a career change or receiving a promotion.
If you are thinking of going back to school, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
1. What’s my end game? Are there other viable alternatives?
Whether you are trying to switch careers or get a promotion, it’s important to think of what you are hoping to achieve by getting a degree. Once you know your goals, it’s important to consider whether there are alternatives that will get you the same result.
Many hospital administrators decide to go for a Master’s in Public Health, because it is a requirement for some promotions and pay increases. That said, you may find that certifications will get you to a similar place. For example, some individuals with HR experience, choose to get a certification rather than a Master’s as the certification is highly valued.
2. Can you test the waters?
Do you know what the profession is like? Consider gaining relevant work experience before committing to an advanced degree. For example, becoming a Legal Assistant can give you exposure to the legal field before committing time and resources to becoming a lawyer. You can also test the waters through informal informational interviews which can give you exposure to what the day-to-day is like.
3. Will you go into debt and how long will take you to be able to pay off any debt incurred?
Advanced degrees can be very valuable, and may be necessary for some professions, but it’s very important to consider the amount of debt that you would incur as well as how long it will take you to pay off. If you won’t be working full-time while going for your degree, I would suggest also thinking about the loss of income as well.
How long would it take you to theoretically break even? Here’s an interesting link from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which shows median earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment: http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm In most cases there is a decent increase in earnings. That said, you have to offset that by the cost of debt that you would likely incur and potential loss of income if you won’t be working while studying.
Going back for an advanced degree may have a significant impact on your future and can provide you with opportunities that you would not have had otherwise. A secondary degree is a big decision, use the above questions to help you evaluate whether it’s the right choice for you.