After working for a few years as a young professional, you may start to get that itch to do something else. You gaineded valuable experience, learned a lot on the job, and feel stable in your career — but you may be left wanting more.
Many people start to think of going to graduate school. You may wonder if grad school is right for you, especially if you’re in the Boston or Cambridge areas and surrounded by quality schools.
But with rising costs in education, it’s important that you go to graduate school for the right reasons and not simply because you are unsure of what to do with your life moving forward.
Here are simple strategies to determine if grad school makes sense for you:
Your Income is Capped Without a Professional Degree
In certain fields, your income and ability to advance may be capped at a certain level without a professional degree. This is especially true for people that pursue careers in science, medicine, or law.
If you know that you could make more money and get higher-level positions with a graduate degree, then graduate school makes sense.
Start by looking at people in your field that have jobs you want — do professionals in Massachusetts who hold the positions you want have graduate degrees? Do you have a rough estimate of what they make in this area?
Do your research beforehand on what positions pay with and without a graduate degree.
You Want to Change Careers
If you’re looking to completely change fields, then going to graduate school may be a good option to get your foot in the door.
Perhaps you started off studying history, but feel your knowledge and skill set would better serve people through law. In that case, going to law school would make sense and be necessary for your career trajectory. That’s a field that requires a specific degree and certification to succeed.
If you’re looking to change careers, first see if there are any volunteer or internship opportunities that might help with getting some experience on your resume.
In certain fields like nonprofits and the arts, you can get valuable hands-on experience without paying for the price of graduate school. It’s always worth exploring various ways to achieve your goals before making a big commitment to pursue an advanced degree.
You Can Afford It
Graduate school can be costly, but can be a return on your investment if played correctly.
Considering how many prestigious schools there are in the Boston area, there are undoubtedly many good choices for you to pick from — schools that anyone would be proud to have next to their name. However, good schools can come at a hefty price.
Student loans are a big issue for those wanting to return to graduate school. But if you are able to score a free ride or secure partial funding, going to graduate school makes sense.
Also, if you have enough money saved up for it or can work out a low-cost living arrangement (like moving in with family members to save money), graduate school can be a good option.
Taking on student loans can be worth the risk in certain cases, but it’s best if you can diminish the possibility of getting into a ton of debt for your education.
If you are wondering if graduate school makes sense for you, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I really want to go to graduate school? (Or are you being pressured by family, friends, and colleagues?)
- Can I afford to go to graduate school?
- What is the starting salary for someone in my field with a graduate degree?
- What opportunities are available to be with this degree?
- Are there jobs in my field in the geographic location of my desired school?
Answering these questions will give you a better understanding if graduate school makes sense for you.
Graduate school can be a rewarding and challenging experience — but it’s not right for everyone. Be clear on your intentions and motivations and do a comprehensive audit of your current financial situation to see if graduate school is feasible.