One major decision you may have to make during your studies or career is whether you should pursue a Master’s degree. There are advantages and disadvantages to pursuing graduate studies and you should carefully consider all options before deciding. This is because there are factors that you may overlook. Hence, to assist you in your decision-making process, we explore five major questions you have to consider before saying yay or nay to graduate school.
#1: Why do you want to pursue a Master’s degree?
The Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.” Borrowing such Aristotelian wisdom, ask yourself what your motivations for pursuing a Master’s degree are. Are you pursuing graduate studies only because someone else expects this of you? Are you trying to buy time before entering the workforce simply because you are undecided on what to do in your career? Would your upcoming Master’s degree be like a backup plan or safety net as you mull over what you really want to do in life?
Conduct in-depth research on your future career and education plans, the upsides and downsides of pursuing a Master’s, the programmes that may interest you, and more. While it is not a crime to go to graduate school to delay entering the workforce, a graduate degree can be expensive. Ideally, you should have a rough idea of what you would like to do after graduate school in order to make your Master’s degree worthwhile. Hopefully, getting a Master’s will facilitate your move to your dream job, build your career, or simply achieve your personal goals.
#2: Do you enjoy conducting research and writing academic papers?
You may think you miss school after only a summer or semester off school. However, ask yourself if that yearning is only a passing phase. Do you really relish reading lots of books, academic papers, going for seminars, and getting engrossed in research? Even if you have been in the workforce for a while and are thinking of going back to school, are you motivated enough to commit to all the requirements in your intended graduate degree programme?
While you may have found your undergraduate years a breeze, note that an undergraduate programme typically entails far less rigorous coursework and research than a graduate programme. Generally, Master’s courses are structured like undergraduate courses. The main difference between the two is that Master’s degree courses require more background research and preparation for each class, test or academic assignment.
There is little to no spoon-feeding from the professors in a graduate degree programme. You would need to have lots of initiative and be self-driven to complete a Master’s programme.
#3: Can you afford it?
Tuition could be anywhere from free to an average of $50,000 per year or more for a typical Master’s degree programme, depending on your field and country of study. Mull over whether your financial situation permits you to pursue a Master’s as well as the amount (or percentage) of increased income your upcoming degree may bring in the future before committing to a programme.
If you decide to pursue your Master’s and finances remain a concern, think of ways to subsidize your costs by exploring job positions on campus such as graduate assistant roles. Such on-campus roles may offer decent monetary compensation in terms of hourly pay, a stipend or tuition subsidies for your contributions.
#4: Do you need a higher degree for your career?
While a graduate degree is not necessary for every job, there are some industries and fields that necessitate a Master’s degree. Conduct ample research to see if a Master’s degree is a requirement. If you want to pursue your career in areas like public health, data science, or speech-language pathology, you may have to pursue a Master’s. In other industries, on-the-job work experiences are just as, if not more, important as advanced degrees. Note that geographic differences can factor into your decision-making process as well. For instance, a Master’s degree is necessary for some entry-level jobs in Europe.
#5: Can you work while pursuing graduate studies?
As a prospective graduate student, you may want to work full or part-time during your studies. Balancing work and graduate school commitments may be challenging, thus you have to confirm with your employer (if you are employed) if such an arrangement is feasible. Make sure that your graduate school responsibilities do not interfere with your work performance and vice versa. If you are the breadwinner in your family, you may have to negotiate your way with your employer or find another means of employment before taking the plunge to go to graduate school.
Fortunately, many graduate schools acknowledge the difficulties of being an adult learner. These schools can even aid you in finding a way to suit your graduate studies to your current life and responsibilities. These programmes may even offer part-time or online courses to fit your schedule.
Take your time before deciding on graduate school
Pursuing a Master’s degree is a major life decision, so take your time and weigh all the pros and cons before going for it. Consider factors like your motivation for pursuing your Master’s, your career prospects after graduate school, your budget as well as existing life commitments.
Do not rush into a Master’s degree as your career is not a race. Sometimes, holding off your graduate school plans may just be the right thing to do at a given point in time.
Graduate school life typically entails lots of research in the library. Are you prepared to commit to attending classes, participating in seminar discussions and writing academic papers regularly? Carefully weigh the pros and cons before deciding to go to graduate school!