It’s safe to say that the last few years have been nothing short of tumultuous. From the COVID-19 pandemic to the rise of remote work to the Great Resignation and everything in between, the overall job market has changed considerably over just a few years. Couple this with the recent widespread layoffs and overall economic uncertainty, and it can feel increasingly difficult to navigate your career progression.
For many young professionals, these conditions warrant the consideration of returning to school to pursue secondary education. While in many cases graduate school can be a savvy investment, it’s also easy to see why more and more professionals are choosing to defer pursuing professional degrees. In this article, I’ll break down some of the decisions you’ll need to make if you’re on the fence about going back to school.
Cost tends to be the primary reason professionals forgo graduate education. And for good reason – grad school is not cheap! For individuals still working to pay off student loans from their undergraduate studies, the thought of grad school can seem like a far cry from rational. But it’s important to look at the bigger picture. Graduates with professional degrees in the right fields of study unequivocally tend to outearn those with just an undergraduate degree, and this investment almost always pays itself off more quickly. More on the topic can be found here.
If you’re still a college student, you may want to consider staying enrolled for an additional year to complete a Master’s degree. Most universities allow undergraduate students to pursue accelerated Master’s programs upon completion of the right prerequisites. This can be an efficient way to complete your degree and guarantee a higher salary when entering the job market.
For those who are already working, it never hurts to ask your employer for sponsorship. Employer sponsorship programs are a great way to fund your education stress-free. Sure, you’ll have to commit a few years to your employer after you’re finished, but in many cases, this is a worthwhile tradeoff. Another consideration is scholarship money. Though never guaranteed, it’s important to remember that the applicant pools of top graduate programs are much smaller than they are for undergraduate programs. Schools are far more likely to financially award applicants accordingly, especially if you’re proactive about your communication and contingency planning.
We talked about the cost, but what about the opportunity? Let’s be clear, getting an MBA or any similar professional degree isn’t an automatic golden ticket into a high-paying career. It is, however, one of the few dedicated chances you’ll have to get exposed to unique opportunities not found anywhere else.
Beyond traditional campus recruiting, graduate schools are excellent places to grow your network. Meeting new people never gets easier, and graduate school provides a great opportunity to buck that trend. And as the saying goes, your network is your net worth.
Graduate schools are also smaller environments than undergraduate programs. This means that the resources available to you are not only more at your disposal, but you’ll likely be able to collaborate with faculty, peers, and extracurricular organizations in more meaningful capacities than you would have otherwise.
Attending school can also be an incredible opportunity for meaningful change and personal development. Maybe you’re interested in pursuing a new industry. Perhaps you want to use the opportunity to move to a new city or state. Maybe you want to challenge yourself and expose yourself to new activities and mindsets.
At the end of the day, my parting thought on the topic is this: it’s important to be thoughtful about why you’d want to go to school. If it’s for the advanced career trajectory, you’re already halfway there. But, don’t neglect some of the intangible factors that can end up weighing heavily in such an important decision.
Still trying to decide if grad school is right for you? Message me on my profile and we'll work together to see how it fits into your educational and career goals, and craft a strategy for moving forward.
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