Many young professionals live in a fluid phase between the worlds of work and school. By definition they are employed and hold jobs, but they also are only years removed from college or grad school – and, for many of them, there’s a definite chance that they’ll go back. Some young professionals begin their careers with this mindset, planning to work a couple years after college and then returning for a masters or advanced degree. For others, this decision comes after they have experienced career dissatisfaction and a desire to seek out new opportunities.
The decision to go back to school is not one that should be taken lightly. After all, it often involves quitting your job, suspending your earning potential, and generally putting your career on hold for a degree that may or may not pass off. It also may involve packing up your apartment, filling up uHaul trucks and self storage facilities, and moving halfway across the country to attend school. For young professionals with spouses, significant others, or strong geographic ties, such a move carries with it considerable ramifications.
So what should you do? Return to school or stay in the workforce? How can a young professional decide? While the factors that inform this decision are often highly individualized, here are a few Dos and Donts of going back to school:
DO go back to school if:
-Your current employer is subsidizing the cost or has promised a job upon return
-The degree could either (a) help you concretely in your current career or (b) help you jump start another career
-You have the flexibility to pick up, move for a few years, and then move again
-Workers in your current or intended field are stronger applicants and better employees with a graduate degree
-You know you can commit the time and the effort to succeed
-You can afford making minimal money for a period of time
DON’T go back to school if:
-You are simply dissatisfied with your current job or career and see school as the best option
-You can’t expect improved job prospects upon receiving the degree
-Money is tight and you would have to take out loans (unless you can be highly confident of getting a quick salary boost after finishing your degree)
-You’d have to uproot a young family and potentially suspend two careers
-You aren’t fully committed to the specialty of the degree or the time commitment required to finish it successfully
Ultimately, going back to school will determine a new path that informs the next era of your employment career. If you are unhappy with your current path, see a graduate degree as offering a more promising one, and have the money and flexibility to make it happen, by all means go ahead and get that second degree. But make sure that you are doing so for the right reasons and with the right considerations in mind.