Going back to school to get your Graduate degree is a huge financial commitment and it will take a great deal of your time and focus. Whether you are fresh out of your undergrad or going back to school after having taken a bit of time off, there are a few fundamental questions that you need to ask yourself to make sure that you are truly ready to take that next step.
You need to understand what type of time commitment you are making. Graduate programs are all structured differently depending on your focus and field of study. Some programs are meant to be completed in a set number of years, generally 2-4, with little flexibility due to the availability of classes. Others have hourly requirements, 30-40 on average, and may be completed as quickly as you can complete the required courses. Look at the type of program you are interested in and make sure that you fully understand how much time and dedication will be expected from you. If you have other commitments in your life, you want to make sure that you are not taking on too much.
You know that school is expensive, you learned that from your undergraduate experience, and pursuing your graduate degree is no different. You need to know exactly what expenses you are taking on for the duration of the time that you are in school and you need to know where that money is coming from. If you are going to pay for it, you need to budget and make sure that the rest of your expenses are taken care of. If you plan to take out loans, you need to create a plan for borrowing only as much as you truly need. You also need to plan how to manage those loans while in school, and figure out aggressive repayment once you graduate. There will also be some financial aid, grants and scholarships available to you, so research what is offered privately and through whichever school you will be attending.
Now that you know how much time and money you will be spending to get your degree, you want to make sure that your degree is going to benefit your career. There are some jobs that are extremely competitive, and any advanced degree that you can get in the field will give you the edge over the competition. Look at the job market that you are entering and make sure that your degree is going to supply you with a competitive edge. Not sure if your graduate degree can lead to great employment? Make sure to reconsider your options before committing, especially if going into debt to do so.
Some pay scales are completely dependent on your level of education. Teacher’s salaries for example can rise with each degree they hold. Research your desired field and find out if your pay will increase enough with a new degree that it makes it worth the investment. Look at the ROI or return on investment associated with your particular degree and make a decision as to whether or not you think it is truly worth the time and financial commitment.
Many students receive their undergraduate degree in something completely different than what they eventually pursue a graduate degree in. Look at what you are doing and ask yourself, is this what I am really passionate about? You want to know that you will be able to graduate and be excited about entering the workforce in the field that you are earning this expensive degree in.