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Work, life and the pursuit of happiness for the young professional.

Guest Post: The Grad School Debate: Back to School or Not?

Amanda Green is a guest blogger that has written extensively on the subject of education and business.

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.

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5 Comments

  1. This type of discussion is just what I was looking to read. I will be entering the workforce fresh out of college in a few months and have a decision to make. Do I focus on only my career in Finance at the employer I’ll be working for or do I take on graduate school as well. My decision was quite easy to make. My employer is paying for my education and I want to stay in the classroom while I still have that drive and mindset. Since graduate schools offer evening part-time programs it enables young professionals to take as few as one course a semester, whether that’s fully online, a mix or just in class. My goal is to get further in my career as fast as possible. Many recent college graduates are rushing back to school because of the current state of the job market. I hope to stay ahead of the curve by working and taking classes. Now to start the GMAT preparation…

  2. Thanks for the tips! I am really thinking on whether I should go back to school to pursue further studies or to just focus on my job. I know that taking another degree would really help me level up my career but I also love my job right now and I am afraid I might jeopardize it by taking another responsibility. This post gives me a lot of things to consider. This definitely helped me in making up my mind. Thank you!

  3. As a 46-year old business owner, educational pursuits for me would all be needs-based with regard to helping my business grow. In other words, I would be seeking useable concepts instead of degrees. I joked on Facebook the other day that the Star Trek series really had it right. They had a society that was not based on scarcity of resources, meaning the standard money economy was obsolete. One’s existence was based upon the pursuit of knowledge.

    I wish I could take the time and go back to school. I have a degree in B.S. in Finance, but would love to go back to school and study engineering or even philosophy (yes, I know … “huh”?) But daily financial commitments make that unrealistic. Heck, I don;t have the energy for it anyway.

    But we do live in a money-based economy. And because we do, I believe one should also do a cost-benefit analysis to assist in the decision? What is the cost going to be compared to the expected earnings at the degree program’s completion? How about the overall market for those with that particular skill set? Also, while it is perhaps difficult to measure, how about an honest assessment of one’s dedication to return to school at a later date if the decision to postpone is made?

    It is a shame that something that can do so much for our world by facilitating innovation and brilliance, has such a price tag tied to it. No telling how many creative architects, engineers, and artists have come and gone untapped because attending college was an unreachable goal from birth.

  4. Thanks for this. I am debating this very question right now. While I recently graduated and started my career, I am considering a part-time MBA program. Mostly the negatives for me are money and time as I really believe an MBA would be beneficial to any young professional.

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