Let’s set a scene for a moment. You’ve been out of college with your precious bachelor’s degree, hanging nicely above your desk at work, for several years now. As you attend work every weekday, though, you wonder: should I jump back into school and try to do something else with my life? Is a Master’s Degree what I really need in order to make more money or have a better job/life?
We’ve asked ourselves these questions since graduating college, too, twenty-somethings – and we know we’re not alone.
Here are a few things to think over before jumping into that graduate school application.
Are you able to handle the finances behind a Master’s Degree?
Did attending college for your undergraduate years leave you with tons of student loan debt? Are you struggling to pay those back now that you’ve been out of school for a few years? These are two important questions to ask yourself prior to deciding to attend a graduate school program. Graduate programs cost a bit more than your average undergraduate program, so think it over more than once. Make a budget of everything you currently pay for and add in what it would cost for the graduate program of your choice–will the cost be hurting your bank account more than helping it at this time? If so, wait until some of your debts are paid off and then make the leap toward graduate school. It’ll always be there. But if you are positive that you want graduate school in your future, there are several ways to finance it including graduate assistantships, financial aid, scholarships, grants, fellowships or even tuition assistance from your place of employment. Don’t be discouraged–you have options!
Do you really need one for your chosen career field?
If you’re in the game to become a doctor or lawyer, you will, of course, need to attend medical school or law school, respectively. If your goal is to earn your doctorate degree, you will most likely need to obtain a master’s degree before pursing more education. Although, many doctorate programs allow you to earn a master’s degree as part of working towards your doctorate. However, if you’re in a field where you could live without it, enjoy your freedom for now. If you absolutely cannot get a job in your field without a master’s degree, then you know what you need to do.
What about graduate certificates?
If you’re not sure about attending graduate school, look into colleges and universities that offer graduate certificates. Many schools across the nation offer this shorter program for potential graduate students as an opportunity to strengthen your resume. In these programs, classes are often once a week, at night or online, or any combination of the three. You will obtain your certificate after only a few semesters rather than a year or more as in a master’s degree program. For example, at the University of Maryland, potential graduate students can obtain a graduate certificate in Multimedia Journalism to enhance one’s skills in the online and digital media journalism field, while still working in it. Classes are held on the weekend and the entire program lasts for a period of two years. Not to mention that graduate certificate programs could save you a little bit of money–these certificates tend to be less expensive than an entire program of graduate studies.
Are you thinking about attending graduate school? Tell us what’s been going through your mind as you’ve gone through this process.
Photo Credit: Katherine Lee