Questions to Ask Before Going Back to Graduate School

Will Graduate School Help Me Improve My Finances?

Graduate school can qualify you for a wider variety of positions. Depending on the field you study it may mean a significant increase in your earnings potential, but for some fields it may not be as much as you think. The reasons you are considering going back should be weighed heavily in your decision to go back. Many people return to graduate school, because they are having a difficult time finding a job. Planning to deal with the transition between college and your job will help you determine if graduate school is the right choice for you. It is important to realize that once you graduate you will be in the same situation you are in now, and no school can guarantee that you will find work once you graduate. It is also important to carefully choose the school you go to when headed back to school. Here are some common questions you should ask yourself before you go back to graduate school.

How Will the Degree Improve My Current Job Situation?

Is going back to graduate school the right move for you?
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If you have spent a few years working in your job field, and you know you need a higher degree to qualify for promotions or to move into a management position, then you should definitely consider going back to school. If you are having a difficult time finding a job in the field you want to work in, a new degree may not help you find work. You should consider widening your job search, looking in related fields, and in a larger geographic location before going back to school. It does take time to find a job, and it can be difficult to keep looking even after your friends have found a job. Before going back to school, you should have a career planning session to make sure this will help you achieve the desired results. If you are ready to move on to a new job, you should make sure that desperation to leave your current job is not driving your decision to go back to school.

Will the Degree Improve My Pay?

There is a higher increase of pay in earning an MBA over most other graduate degrees. For example, you will increase your earning potential if you get a master’s degree in education, but to the same potential as you would with an MBA. If you are getting the degree primarily to improve your pay situation, you should consider how much it is going to cost you to receive the degree. It does not make sense to go $100,000 in debt for a degree if you are only going to increase your earning potential by about $10,000 a year.This does not mean that you should not go back to graduate school, but in some situations, it will make a lot more sense to go to a state program that is more affordable than a private university even if it means taking a bit longer to earn the degree. 

Do I Want to Continue in This Career Field?

This is one reason why getting real world experience is a good idea. Many people major in a field, and then discover they hate working in all aspects of that field, and decide to change careers. If you have never worked in the field you are getting your degree in, then you should try to gain work experience before you go on to get the next degree. Summer internships are a great way to do this while you are in school. If you are going back so that you can switch career fields, then you should try to gain some experience in the field you want to transition into.

How Will Going Back to Graduate School Affect My Lifestyle?

If you are planning on returning full-time to school and live entirely on student loans or scholarship money, are you in a position to cut back your lifestyle? If you are planning on attending night classes or a low-residency degree program, have you asked yourself how it will affect your current relationships. If you are married, your spouse needs to support the decision and the sacrifices you will be making. You need to work to prevent going into debt as much as possible. It is important to consider how going back to school will affect your ability to work and manage other aspects of your life if you are planning to continue to work. If you have to move for your program, you will need to find a new job and consider how you will find a job to go to school. 

Are There Alternate Ways to Pay for Graduate School?

Many employers are willing to pay for all or a portion of your classes if it is going to help them in the future. Check with your human resources department to see if your company offers a tuition reimbursement program. Although you may take a little longer to get your degree if you go part-time in the evenings or over the weekend, you can maintain your current lifestyle, and get the degree you want or need. Apply for grants and scholarships as well. If you are returning full-time apply for all the assistantships you can. Before you even apply determine how much you are willing to borrow to pay for school.