How to Decide if it’s Time to Go to Grad School

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Deciding whether or not to go back to school for another degree can be tough because it’s an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. This is especially the case if you already have student loans or a family to support. When asking yourself, “Should I go to grad school?” ask yourself these questions so you can get the full perspective on your decision.

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Can you afford it?

If you already feel suffocated by student loans, going back to school might not seem like the best option. If you’re loan free, it might be hard to see the benefits of graduate school behind all of those dollar signs. As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you’re serious about graduate school and know that it will advance your career, there are plenty of options to help you pay.

Around 88 percent of the organizations surveyed offer professional development support, according to a 2013 Employee Benefits survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management. This means anything from certification fees to career counseling to professional development opportunities. Many employers offer to cover the cost of classes that will advance an employee through the company and sharpen his or her relevant skill sets. The company may formally broadcast “Employer Tuition Assistance” or, depending on your relationship with the company, you can pitch a similar plan to your boss. Companies may not shell out the full tuition price, but they will help cover some of the costs. Companies like Deloitte, UPS, JPMorgan Chase, and Apple offer various compensation packages for continuing education relevant to top-performing employees’ careers. This is an attractive offer and something to think about when applying to jobs.

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If you’re currently unemployed or looking for extra aid, there are abundant scholarships and grants out there for graduate programs. But on the other hand, scholarships and grants are competitive and not all companies offer a flexible schedule or reimbursement for continuing education. Evaluate all of your options before you make your decision so you can avoid a financial rut.

Does it make sense for your professional goals?

Going to grad school shouldn’t necessarily be the result of being unhappy in your current profession (after all, it would be an expensive lesson to learn that you didn’t need to go). There are certain jobs that require a graduate degree: a doctor, lawyer and teacher, for example. If a job that requires a graduate degree is the job for you, then going would be the right decision. But, avoid getting a graduate degree simply because you’re bored in your current role.

Do you want to keep your skill sets sharp?

In today’s job market, the more marketable skills you have, the better. Keeping your skill sets sharp is incredibly important, especially for people — like a parent taking off time to raise children — who have been out of the workforce for awhile and are trying to re-enter. Going back to school will expose you to innovative ideas and the latest technologies. Most importantly, don’t ever think it’s too late to go back to grad school. Contrary to popular belief, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Your wisdom, maturity, and work experience may even provide you with a richer experience. Yes, you may be a bit rusty when it comes to writing research reports, but it’ll all come back to you eventually. Again, grad school is expensive, so if you just want to learn the latest social media techniques or a new language, you don’t have to become a full-time student, but instead should choose to take some relevant classes.

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Will your lifestyle support it?

Are you married? Do you have kids? Will grad school put a strain on your relationships? This question circles back to whether you can afford grad school and maintain your current lifestyle. If you’re married and/or have children, your decision could impact the rest of your family. You may have to move to another state or downsize. Can you afford to quit your job and live on one salary? The expensive tuition could cause drastic changes in your lifestyle, so these are all important things to consider when deciding if grad school is right for you.

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