“Should I go back to graduate school?” This is a question many professionals wonder about each day. If you’ve struggled to find a new job in the difficult economy, you may be seriously considering it.
I challenge you to carefully weigh the pros and cons of graduate school before enrolling. It’s both expensive and time-consuming, so if you’re going to go, you want it to be for the right reasons.
If you’ve had trouble finding a new job, and think graduate school is your golden ticket to that perfect opportunity, think again. After graduating, you’ll find yourself going through the same process you are today: building your network, applying for jobs and interviewing. Contrary to popular belief, job offers will not pour in just because you have an additional piece of paper from another university.
Do a cost-benefit analysis of a graduate degree. Add up the total cost of your education, including salary you will forego while in school and the cost you’ll pay in tuition and expenses, such as books. How does the total cost compare to the increase in salary you expect to see after graduation?
If you want to go because you’re not sure of what you want to do with your life, look for another alternative. Graduate school is a very expensive way to figure out what it is you want to do. If you’re unsure, talk to professionals who work in the fields you’re interested in to learn about what they do. Look for an internship or volunteer opportunities to test the waters with less commitment.
Most of all, don’t go back just because society dictates that you should – or because mom and dad think it’s important. Society isn’t going to pay off your student loans, or stay up late at night to help you study.
On the flip side, there are a number of very good reasons to go back to graduate school. I went back 10 years ago and earned a Master of Business Administration. I did it because I was often pigeonholed with an undergraduate degree is in engineering, and wanted to move up in the ranks of management. I also knew that financially, the investment would pay off at future jobs. It opened doors that allowed me to grow my career.
Another great example of when a graduate degree makes sense is when you want to work in a profession like law or medicine. These are both examples of jobs that require advanced and highly specialized degrees. Without a medical degree, you can’t practice as a doctor.
If you’re still unsure if graduate school is for you, Google “grad school calculator.” You’ll find a number of sites that help with your own cost-benefit analysis. They’ll look at your current salary, the cost of graduate school and your expected future salary.
Whatever decision you make, be confident in your choice. Understand what you’ll give up and what you’ll get in return to ensure a positive experience, whichever direction you choose.
Angela Copeland is CEO/founder of Copeland Coaching, www.CopelandCoaching.com, and author of “Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job.” You can follow Copeland Coaching on Twitter (@CopelandCoach) and Facebook (Facebook.com/CopelandCoaching).