The final days of an undergraduate program often brings reflection and excitement of the future to come. Many start to seriously consider their options for the future and ask, “Do I try to find a job in my field or go directly to graduate school?” Depending on your professional field it may be necessary to pursue an advanced degree. Personal experience is also important during the decision making process. If you find that the best program is at a school in another state, you may consider taking time off between degrees in order to establish residency and take advantage of lower in-state tuition rates. Here are a few other situations to consider while weighing your options.
Top Questions to consider
Determining whether an advanced degree is right for you begins with considering all the options and asking yourself some vital questions.
What are your career goals?
You may find in your research that work experience with your undergraduate degree may be more beneficial early on then jumping immediately into a graduate program. Some careers require an advanced degree to be eligible for an entry level position.
What type of education is required for your career path?
Review job postings to look at what type of education and experience employers are looking for. Education and experience requirements as well as desirable qualifications are typically outlined in the job posting.
Why do you want to earn an advanced degree?
In addition to determining how a higher level credential will benefit your professional life consider how it will affect your personal growth. Some people just naturally love learning and expanding their minds where a higher degree is mostly based on pure interest.
Is this the right time to be returning to school? What is the outlook and market demand?
Use websites like California and Washington state labor market websites to research outlook and demand for industries and careers in your area. National and other state information can be found through the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
How much will the program cost?
This is one of the biggest factors to consider when considering going back to school. Tuition and book costs increase significantly for advanced degrees. Internships, practicums, or field work may also be a required component of the program.
How will you pay for your degree?
When researching programs, be sure to inquire about any financial aid and scholarship opportunities. You may also want to check with your current employer to see if any type of tuition reimbursement is available. If your degree is delivered at a more traditional college, your work schedule may need to be compromised or need to be adjusted. Online and blended programs are available at many universities, traditional and nontraditional, for those who need added flexibility.
How much travel will be involved?
For some programs, the commute can be much farther than to and from a classroom. Explore if yours requires additional travel to field locations or special immersion events. For example Brandman University’s Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership (Ed.D.) combines local meetings and online course work with six immersion sessions held in Southern California.
This is just a snap shot of what to consider when assessing if a graduate degree is right for you. Although this provides a solid starting point, remember to conduct rigorous research and self-reflect. Speak with a career advisor at your school or interview a working professional in your field of interest. The more information the better you will be prepared and confident in whatever decision you make for the future.