Maybe you’re looking for an extra asset to set you apart from the crowd, or perhaps it’s more of a personal desire to learn. Regardless, your decision about whether to attend graduate school is likely twofold: whether graduate school the right call for you personally, and whether it is a good fit professionally. Here are some helpful tips to consider.
If you’re currently employed in your field, make sure you have a realistic sense of the gains that graduate school will afford you. Whether your company offers a specific guarantee or you just suspect that this is the edge you need to get ahead, it’s important to concretely understand what you can expect from your employer.
Your Program’s Outlook
If this is a career change for you, take a look at the forecast for the program you’re considering. Consult a resource to determine what job growth is expected in your area. Look at local job listings to get a sense of who’s hiring in your area, and what qualifications they are looking for. For example, you can find a variety of jobs with an international relations degree that span across different industries. It’s important to know the availability of jobs with the degree before you take the plunge.
Footing the Bill
Degrees don’t come cheap, and graduate school is a significant financial investment. Before making the decision to enroll, find out whether your current employer offers any tuition reimbursement or similar perks. If so, make sure you understand any associated restrictions. If you’re considering student loans, thoroughly research your options, both federal and private. Consider, too, how your anticipated post-graduate income will equip you for loan repayment.
If you’re looking to attend graduate school locally, research programs in your area to determine whether they fit your needs. You may also want to consider the reputation (positive or negative) of these programs, and how this may impact your prospects upon graduation. If you’d be willing to relocate for graduate school, think about what is practical in terms of distance and cost, and tailor your search accordingly.
Making the Commitment
Think about how much time you can feasibly devote to graduate school, and how your in-class and at-home responsibilities may align with your personal life and expected work obligations. By anticipating these challenges, you’ll be investing in your emotional welfare – and energy levels – throughout graduate school.
As you consider whether to take the graduate school plunge, researching the anticipated yield for your money will help you decide whether the ends justify the means. Similarly, be sure to take both your personal and professional needs into consideration. Understanding what you have to offer grad school, as well as what it can offer you, will help you to strike an ideal balance as you decide.
Anita Ginsburg is a freelance writer from Denver, CO and often writes about business, education, finance and family. A mother of two, she enjoys traveling with her family when she isn’t writing.