How to Determine if Graduate School is the Right Path

Is graduate school the right path?

Graduate School: Is it the right path? 

Are you considering whether or not pursing a graduate degree is the right path? As an adult learner with responsibilities, this decision can be complicated. You will have to learn how to balance school, work, family and other commitments. Making a decision to earn a graduate degree requires thought, research and time.

Before you begin the graduate school application process, you should be able to answer some basic questions. Knowing the answers can aid in the decision-making process by honing in on your career goals.

How Can Graduate School Improve My Career Outlook? Is it Necessary to Advance My Career?

Graduate school provides an advanced education in a specific subject or academic discipline. The knowledge gained in graduate school should aid your professional goals or assist your transition into a new career. Perhaps you currently work for a non-profit and want to obtain a M.S.W. (Master of Social Work). This degree can open new doors for employment and leadership within an organization. However, obtaining a master’s degree does not guarantee a pay increase. 

For example, if you are currently employed in sales, where various employers do not require a bachelor’s degree, earning a master’s degree like an MBA (Master of Business Administration)  might not help you earn more money. However, if you work in finance, strategic management or information systems, a master’s degree could pay off and give you the opportunity to move up in a company. 

How Long Will it Take to See a Return on My Investment?  

If you have the means, grants or scholarships available, return on investment (ROI) may not be at the top of your mind, but it should be. You will spend countless hours away from family, friends, chores and leisure activities. Time is valuable and you must understand that your life will change if you pursue a graduate degree. If you have a family, do you have someone to help with chores and/or do you have someone to babysit while you complete school work?

Along with understanding your investment, remember to research the job market to learn what degree can help you the most. What jobs are in-demand? What are current industry trends? Jobs that are in high demand will often have a larger salary than ones that are low in demand. If you want to further learn about costs to benefits on advanced degrees, check out Advanced Degree, Cost to Benefit Analysis.

Are There Any Situations Where a Graduate Degree Can Hurt My Career Outlook?

Employers assume, and rightfully so, that adult learners are more capable of articulating and acting on their professional goals. If you complete a graduate degree, halfway through your career in a discipline where you are struggling to find work, this might be particularly confusing for an employer and they may discount you as lacking focus or being indecisive. Likewise, if you initially pursued a graduate degree because you could not find the role you desired and you do not have anything on your resume outside of professional sports experience, you have placed yourself at a distinct disadvantage in the job market. Work experience is highly valued by employers. It is important to take advantage of internships and co-op opportunities. When they are not available, it is important to find shorter experiences or to volunteer.

Work with your AthLife Advisor to assist you throughout this process. Attending graduate school is a career decision and it is important to recognize all areas of impact. If you are still trying to determine if graduate school is the right path, check out our blog How to Make the Best Decision About Continuing Your Education for more information.