You might aspire to earn a master’s degree because it’s necessary for advancing in a career, because it can greatly increase your earning power, or because it’s a way to change careers, escaping from your current line of unrewarding work.
Besides these direct benefits, there are also a number of indirect benefits, such as acquiring specialized knowledge, earning community recognition for your academic and professional accomplishments, and attracting a wide spectrum of opportunities in your field that will become available for you.
However, while the idea of embarking on a journey that will have a big impact on your career is exciting, going to school for your masters involves a lot of reflection and planning. So, in light of your interest to enhance your existing career or get on a new career track, here are some things to think about before you enroll in a college to earn an advanced degree:
1. What will you study?
Unless you feel passionate about what you’re about to study, you won’t have the keen interest and emotional resilience necessary to do well in school.
If for example, you’ve always loved following fashion trends and been repeatedly told by family and friends over the years that you have a good head for business, then you might want to consider the field of fashion merchandising. With a masters in fashion merchandising, you’ll quickly gain a competitive advantage when seeking a well-paid career in fashion and merchandising.
Ideally, then, you should study something that aligns with a deep interest. Focusing on external rewards, like a higher income, social prestige, and a better lifestyle isn’t enough to keep you motivated through all the effort you’ll have to make to balance your work and family life while you attend graduate school.
2. What classes will you take?
Before you commit to a course of study, it’s always a good idea to review the classes that you’ll be expected to take. If the things that you’ll learn turn you on, then you’ve picked the right field. Conversely, if you dislike certain topics, say, you hate math but find that you have to take quite a few hard math classes, then you may want to select another course of study that is closer to your academic strengths.
3. How will you pay for it?
Graduate school is usually costly; how costly depends on the school you attend and the program you choose. Consequently, part of your financial planning will include researching various ways to acquire the funds you’ll need to pay your tuition.
Here are some options to look into:
1. Scholarships or grants.If you’re a member of a certain minority group, say, an Iraq war veteran, there may be a private organization, corporation, or government agency that is willing to offer you a scholarship or grant.
2. Assistant programs.A part-time graduate assistant program may be available if the university you’re interested in attending receives money from the government for every graduate student that they enroll. Similarly, a research assistant position may be available if research grant funds are being given to your thesis adviser by a corporation interested in furthering a particular field of academic research.
3. An employer education program. The company that you’re currently working for may have funds available for qualified employees who are seeking an advanced education. This may offer either partial or full tuition coverage.
Other options for getting the money you need include getting an interest-free salary advance from your employer, getting a loan from a wealthy family member, dipping into your savings account, or taking advantage of an insurance scholarship that your parents signed up for many years ago for your education.
Balance work, family, and studies
Assuming that you’ve identified your passion, found the right course of study, like the classes you’ll be taking, and know how to get the funding you need, then one last thing that you have to keep in mind is that a graduate program is very demanding. Consequently, you’ll need some strategies for surviving and thriving in grad school.
Besides your own challenges in keeping on top of your busy schedule, your decision will also affect other people in your life. So, after determining your academic workload, discuss your decision to go back to graduate school with your employer and your family. With your demanding schedule, you may have to reduce your working hours and spend far less time with your family. By considering the impact your decision will have on everyone around you, it will be much easier to get their cooperation when it comes to rearranging your life around your class schedule and making time to study for exams.