Is Grad School for You? A Few Tips About an Advanced Degree

Currently pursuing my master’s degree, I’ve been thinking recently about my decision to go to grad school and whether I should have or not. I thought long and hard about it before I applied to several universities, weighed my options, what it meant to be a an older student getting another degree.

There’s a lot of ground to cover when thinking about whether or not a master’s (or doctorate) program is right for somebody. Some career paths require advanced degrees, others not so much. But at the end of the day it’s all about where you want to end up in your chosen field, and whether or not an advanced degree will help you get there.

Here’s what I thought about before I made my decision.

Can I Afford it?

Probably the biggest deciding factor of the process by far. Thankfully I came out of my undergraduate program with little to no debt (one of the very few lucky ones, I know) and so I had a little more leeway in this area.

However, with the average amount of student debt students have from a bachelors program sitting around $24,301 according to the American Student Assistance organization, it’s worth considering whether or not accruing more student loans can be justified by the degree earned.

In my case, I had no debt. I was starting on a level playing field, a chance not many students get. Did I want to voluntarily put myself in the hole for a chance at a degree that might lead me to bigger and better places? Obviously, I did, but it is something everyone should consider first and foremost.

Do I Have the Time/Patience?

I love my current university; tons of friendly faces, outgoing classmates, instructors who actually care. But I’ve noticed a lot of my classmates are older than your average grad student, with many coming back to get their master’s degree while holding a full time job or with a family or both. I think this takes a lot of courage and guts and I can’t commend them enough for doing so.

I too held a ‘big boy job’ after my undergraduate years. It was a nice, 9-5 with benefits that might have been a great career starter. So it took my a while to come back for an advanced degree. One thing you learn is that life takes over after a while and school can add extra burden that may not have a positive effect on someone’s life.

Children, a full-time job, a lengthy commute, free time to study and write up papers while working full time all come into the mix when deciding to go back to school. That’s not to say it isn’t doable, or that one can be successful at it. Many of my current classmates love their lives, family, school, work and all and are succeeding when they never thought it possible.

Will This Degree Take me to Where I Want to Go?

A lot of career paths practically require a master’s degree these days. An MBA might be a crucial part of being successful at your dream job. An MFA might put you on the path to become a tenured professor. And I would hope my doctor had an advanced degree of some kind before he opened me up to see what was wrong with me.

The point is, some degrees are necessary and profitable. It’s always worth it to weight the option of, well, can I get where I want to go with the degree I already have? Or will this master’s degree benefit me in the long run, regardless of the extra time and expense?

It’s not an easy choice, nor a quick one. So take your time when deciding. And most of all, good luck!

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Jared Gerling

Jared Gerling

Jared Gerling earned his BA from Michigan State University. Jared has been writing since he was eleven when all his characters had swords and magic spells and bad attitudes. When not writing or studying, he can be found watching Spartan football and basketball games, reading, or working out. Jared currently lives in Chicago pursuing his MA in Writing in Publishing from DePaul University.
Jared Gerling

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