Should You Go Back to School for Your Master’s Degree?

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For many people, a degree from a four-year school is sufficient to meet desired career goals. But, in some cases, an advanced degree can open up more doors. In others, it is absolutely necessary to land the particular job you want. If you are thinking about going back to school to get your master’s degree, but are not quite sure if that is the right move, here are some important things to consider.

What is the True Motivation?

When deciding on whether or not to pursue a master’s degree, you need to get at the root of your true motivation. If you are just finishing up your four-year degree, are you thinking about entering the program because it is a necessary next step in reaching your career goals, or are you a bit afraid to enter the ‘’real world,’’ and would prefer to keep being a student? If you are already in the workforce and are thinking about doing a full-time program, are you drawn towards it as an escape from a job you may not be happy with? Does it seem like it will be easier than looking for new employment in a tough market? There is nothing wrong with dissatisfaction with your current circumstances to motivate you to make a change, but you need to evaluate the core reasons—some are better than others. Getting a master’s degree is a huge commitment, time wise and financially, so it should not be used simply as an escape.

Have you Carefully Considered Career Options After you get the Degree?

In reading an interview recently with a former enrollment advisor for graduate programs, he stressed the importance of thinking carefully about the types of jobs in the field you are considering for your advanced degree. He noted that many students often times would pick fields of study based on the academic end of things, but did not really give much thought to whether they would actually want to do the jobs that they were now qualified for. If you are thinking about getting your master’s degree because you think it will advance your career, familiarize yourself with all these higher-level jobs you may qualify for—are any of them actually appealing? Do you think you have the skill set, temperament and personality to thrive in them? So, no matter what degree you are contemplating, whether it be a masters in criminal justice or classical literature, give some serious thought to whether you would like the jobs.

Cost Considerations

Master’s degrees are expensive, and you need to carefully consider your current financial picture. Are you already carrying debt? How much will your debt grow if you decide to do a master’s program? Will this financial responsibility interfere with what you hope to do after you get your degree? The sad reality is, many people are not in their desired professions because of their financial circumstances. Bills need to be paid, and if you graduate school owing a lot of money, this may put a hitch in your employment plans. Instead of getting the job you really want and would love, money pressures may lead you in a totally different direction. You may dream of getting your degree in public policy and working at a non-profit, but student loans may have you taking a job in the private sector because it pays more; before you know it, you are bogged down in a career you never wanted.

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about all things education.