5 Things to Consider If You’re Thinking about Grad School
Whether you're beginning your professional career or have several years of experience, a master’s degree can help you advance more quickly in your field.
Continuing your education is an investment in a better future—one that could lead to a promotion, a new career in a fast-growing industry and higher earning potential.
In fact, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 18 percent of all jobs will require a master’s degree by 2022. Data from the BLS also shows that the median salary for full-time workers with a master’s degree was 19 percent higher than the median salary for workers with a bachelor’s degree in 2017.
Not sure if graduate school is the right path for you? Here are five factors to consider:
1. What are my career goals?
Whether you are just beginning your professional career or have several years of experience, a master’s degree can help you advance more quickly in your field and position yourself for more specialized roles.
If you dream of becoming a high-level manager within your organization, for example, an MBA can help you develop the leadership and management skills you need to get there. If you are a nurse looking to take the next step in your career, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can prepare you for roles in education and healthcare administration, or allow you to expand your scope of practice as a nurse practitioner.
According to a survey from the Council of Graduate Schools, the majority of grad school applications in 2017 were for business and health sciences degree programs, as these fields typically require advanced degrees for leadership and management positions.
2. Can I afford it?
Cost is another major factor to take into consideration. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, average student loan balances for grad school alumni have been increasing for the past two decades, consistent with the growing cost of tuition for grad school. However, there are options that can help take some of the financial weight off your shoulders, such as scholarships, financial aid and benefits for veterans and military personnel.
If you want to go to grad school but are not sure how it will affect you financially, try using an ROI calculator to weigh the potential benefits of continuing your education against the projected costs. The calculator will ask you to enter your current salary, expected salary after getting your degree, length of your program, the cost of tuition and other expenses. You are also able to account for any student loans you might take out to pay for school.
The calculator will then determine the total cost of going to grad school and your projected lifetime earnings with an advanced degree. It will also estimate at what age your graduate degree will show you a return on your investment.
3. Is now the right time for me to do this?
Maybe you’re looking to land a promotion at work, or maybe it’s finally the right time to finish a degree that you put on hold for family or health-related reasons. Still, a full-time master’s degree program might not feel like a realistic option if you are balancing a career and a family.
Keep in mind that many schools understand the challenges of being an adult learner, and they can help you find a way to fit education into your life. Consider attending part-time, or taking some classes online so that you can work at your own schedule.
Be honest with yourself about what you can handle, but don’t get discouraged right away if you don’t fit the mold of the traditional student. Many schools today offer flexible, online and career-focused programs that make education more possible for the working adult.
4. Which school is right for me?
It’s important to find an educational institution that will empower and support you to achieve your goals, but at your own pace and in a way that works for you. Look for institutions that offer individualized support through one-on-one academic coaching, personal career advisors, as well as online career and academic resources. These are essential tools for your success, especially if you are considering an online program.
Additionally, look for academic programs that are focused on your career development and advancement. Universities that partner with local and national organizations are in tune with what employers want and are focused on preparing their graduates for the workplace of the future. Programs that prepare you for industry certification exams can make you even more marketable for specialized roles after graduation.
5. What do I need to do to prepare my application?
After deciding where you want to apply, the next step is taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), a standardized test that is required for entry into most graduate programs. If you are applying to a business program, you might need to take the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). In addition to taking the GRE or GMAT, be ready to prepare a personal statement, find references and ask for letters of recommendation.
Most grad school application deadlines fall between the end of October and the beginning of December, but you should begin thinking about your applications in August or September. The more time you give yourself to prepare, the less stressful the application process will be.
Navigating the next step in your career is challenging, but with the right school, it’s possible to find a program that meets your individual needs and puts you on the path to long-term career success.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2020. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.