Monday, April 22, 2013

Three questions to ask before pursuing an advanced degree

You have your bachelor's degree but are considering pursuing some kind of advanced degree: a master's or even a law degree. The conventional wisdom is that there are significant benefits to your career by pursuing an advanced degree. But the decision to do so should not be made lightly. Before pursuing an advanced degree, reflect on the questions below to become more clear about whether the decision is the right one for you.

What is your goal in pursuing an advanced degree? When you embark upon an endeavor like obtaining a master's degree or another of its kind, think about what it is that you are trying to accomplish. Do you hope to earn more money? Those with advanced degree do earn a higher income over the duration of the careers according to the Georgetown University College Payoff report. However, some industries value higher education more than others and an advanced degree may not make a difference. But money might not be your goal: perhaps you pursuing one for the sake of learning or growing your professional network. You may have other reasons; get clear about them before filling out any paperwork.

What is the value of a degree to your organization? If you are working for a company or organization, learn how they value degrees. Some employees think that obtaining an advanced degree will lead to an automatic promotion or pay increase...only to be disappointed to find out that it does not. Your role in the company may make a difference as well: if you are in a sales position, an advanced degree might not mean a pay increase (though it could be factored in to promotional opportunities). And while some companies provide a tuition reimbursement benefit, it may require you to commit to working there for a certain number of years (typically one to three); if you leave before then you will have to pay back all or a portion of your schooling. If you work for an organization, ask around or check your company's policies to learn more about the impact an advanced degree would have.

How will pursing the degree affect your life? Pursuing a degree will take time and dedication: are you willing to make sacrifices in order to see it through? If you have a family, are you willing to spend less time with them and more time studying? Same question if you do not have a family but have an active social life; pursuing a degree will affect it. You should factor in two to three hours of studying for every hour that you are in class. Further, if your organization provides a tuition remission benefit, it is highly likely that there are things it will not cover (e.g. books, lab fees, gas to travel to classes, etc). Is your budget in line to be able to take on this extra burden? 

While there are many benefits to advancing your education, a level-head and some serious consideration are necessary to ensure if this is the right decision for you. 

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