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"I know graduate school costs a lot, but it will pay off in the long run."

When Should You Get Your Master’s Degree?

June 2, 2015

When is the right time to sign off on at least a couple more years of school, and tens of thousands in tuition expenses? Furthering your formal education almost always pays immediate dividends, but the process of obtaining more education is costly. When should you get your Master’s degree, and when should you hold off?

Stephanie from Asurion said, “Continuing your education is a great idea, but only if it's something you really want to do. Earning a graduate degree takes a great deal of commitment, so choosing to do so must be a decision you make for you and your future rather than something you do because you feel pressure from others.”

Before you dive headlong into a weighty commitment it’s worth evaluating why you’re doing it. Your undergrad may have been what your parents expected of you, but a graduate degree is an entirely different animal. If you’re going to pursue a Master’s degree make sure it’s what you want to do. You will work harder than you’ve ever worked before, so before you commit time and a great deal of cash to another degree work out the cost.

You may decide to hold off on your graduate degree until after you’ve got a few years of job experience.

 Emily from Fifth Thirds Bank believes waiting a few years is the way to go, “I recommend starting your career and building your work experience. The company who employs you is likely to have a tuition reimbursement program and will help pay for your graduate degree. Also, there are many individuals to compete with who have graduate degrees but little work experience and this could be your opportunity to gain an advantage. As you are working and going to school, you can often apply what you are learning in the work environment and get more out of your program.”

Emily brings up an important point to consider. If you wait to get your graduate degree until after you’ve started your career you may not have to pay for it. As Eddie from American Express points out you’ll also know exactly what degree would be helpful in your field. “This [obtaining a Master’s degree before entering the workforce] is dependent on what industry you are trying to get into. You should reach out to people in the type of job or industry you want to enter. Find out what companies look for. Is an MBA needed or even seen as an advantage? Some MBA graduates are seen as too expensive and are overlooked by employers who do not require them. Real life work experience would normally be seen as option #1. If you struggle to find work, upgrading your skills/education is seen by employers as a positive.”

If you want to pursue your Master’s degree it’s going to be helpful to ask some key questions:

  • How long will it take to complete my graduate degree?
  • What area of study will be the most beneficial to my long term goals?
  • Will this benefit my career in the short term and in the long term?
  • On average what is the yearly difference in pay for someone in my field with a Master’s level education verses someone with only a Bachelor’s degree and 3 years of experience?
  • If I started my career immediately could I find an employer who would invest in my education with me through a tuition reimbursement program?
  • What does your mentor(s) believe you should do in relation to your education?
  • Do I really want to go back to school?

Obtaining your graduate degree in your career field is almost always beneficial. However, the timing of when you get your degree is worth weighing. If you’re having an incredibly difficult time finding a job in your career field then perhaps working on your Master’s right now is the route to take. The point is there is no ‘one size fits all.’ Think deeply about your circumstances, and ask the questions we recommended above to discern whether grad school is your next step or if it’s just another step down the line.  

 

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