Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - January 2013
People decide to return to school to pursue a graduate degree for many reasons, they may want to change the direction of their careers, advance their expertise in their current field, or continue their education to meet employment requirements.
For people who have been happily working for several years the decision to return to graduate school is one requiring careful consideration of the costs and benefits of pursing a graduate degree. Individuals at this crossroads may want to ask themselves the following questions as they contemplate applying to a graduate program:
Why do I want to enroll in a graduate degree program?
The answer to this question may vary depending on an individual’s personal circumstances. Perhaps they work in a technical field but hope to become a manager and feel an MBA would provide them the training to be more effective in that role, or maybe a nurse is interested in taking on more responsibility and would like to apply to physician assistant programs. Whatever the reason for choosing to return to graduate school individuals should take a moment to identify their reasons for wanting to enroll in their chosen program.
Do I have the time for a full time job and a full time career?
In addition to money graduate school also costs time. Time spent working on individual and group projects, time spent in class, time spent reading, time spent researching, time spent working on a thesis or dissertation, time spent preparing for exams, and time spent networking. Figuring out how much time you will need to be successful in both your career and graduate school will have an impact on decisions such as whether or not you should go to school full time or part time, what type of program to attend (on campus or online), and your timeline for completing your graduate education. Fortunately, there are many ways to tailor your education to meet both your career and academic needs such as online and hybrid learning options for many programs.
How much flexibility do I have?
Determine how much flexibility you have in your schedule, your work environment and your life to determine if you will be able to find ways to make graduate school a priority. Individuals who have availability in the evening may want to explore graduate programs offering a full catalog of classes at night, those with flexible work schedules may be able to attend classes during the day, and those with weekend availability may be interested in learning more about weekend programs or online learning. Flexibility also means figuring out the number of years you have to commit to pursuit of your graduate degree. Individuals who do not mind taking several years to complete a masters may choose to attend classes part time, while those who believe it is in their best interest to earn their degree as quickly as possible may want to attend graduate school full time.
In the end, you may want to find a program that enables you to maintain the balance of your life. You might search for programs that could provide opportunities for you to earn enough money for you and anyone else depending on you, as well as a schedule that suits your lifestyle. Timing definitely affects those things, so it pays to plan carefully. Choosing the right time to go to graduate school is an important life event requiring careful consideration of every benefit and drawback associated with the decision.
So, if you are wondering if it is the right time to go to graduate school, weigh the practical realities before you. Take time to see if a delay might help or hinder your situation in terms of time or money. But, don’t forget to ask yourself how much you really want to go right now. That’s the most important part of the equation.