According to the US Department of Education, the number of adults going back to school in 2019 is projected to be around 17.2 million, with that total rising to 18.5 million by 2024. If going back to school for further education is a clear-cut way to get an edge in the workplace, then what do these statistics tell you? That the competition for your dream job—whether you’re seeking it or already have it—is only going to get stiffer. It also tells you it might be time to go back to school, too. After all, that competitive edge isn’t going to sharpen itself!
But before you jump into an accredited online master’s degree program or stride confidently into the admissions office of the local university, there are a few things to consider. Actually, there are four very important things to consider.
Why Do You Want to Go Back to School?
Do you want to advance your career and move up the corporate ladder? Graduate school is a solid way to achieve this goal. Employees with higher educational backgrounds are usually deemed assets to a company. This can help move an employee up to a higher pay bracket—which is especially helpful for those who took some time off from school when they were younger and are just now picking up where they left off to complete their degrees. Likewise, pursuing graduate school can help you stay up-to-date with trends and developments in your field. Some tracks can even earn you certifications and additional qualifications. Or perhaps you are probably looking to forge a new career path. Going back to school is the best route to take for establishing a career in a different field.
How Are You Going to Pay for It?
A good education can be expensive. Depending on the school and the specific program, a master’s degree can cost between $30,000 and $120,000, with the average price tag on an MBA hovering around $40,000. These costs don’t include other expenses, such as books and living costs. Unfortunately, all of this money talk can make the prospect of going back to school seem daunting, if not out of reach. But fear not! If you’re employed, your employer may have offer tuition assistance. You can also seek funding through the Federal Student Aid program, which is run by the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, there are groups that organize and match students with various grants and scholarships, be it for finishing a bachelor’s degree or for graduate school.
Where Can You Fit School into Your Schedule?
Once you’ve pinned down the “why” and the “how” of going back to school, it’s time to, well, figure out the time. Do you have enough bandwidth to accommodate the demands of pursuing a college or graduate school degree? Will you be studying full-time or just take classes on weekends? You should also consider the proximity of your school to your home and workplace. Don’t forget to factor in online classes, which, thanks to the Internet, are more and more prevalent in higher education.
Priorities need to be set. Time is a precious resource. Pursuing your degree means other activities may have to take a back seat while you are studying. Weekends spent hanging out with friends may have to be reallocated towards focusing on the books. If you have a family, their support and understanding will be crucial in your pursuit of accomplishing this objective.
How Bad Do You Want It?
It’s a story as old as time: a motivated would-be student shows up bright eyed and bushy tailed for the first day of classes and dives into their studies. But at the first sign of trouble, they vanish like a puff of smoke. Your level of commitment is the last crucial factor to consider when deciding to pursue further studies.
In juggling various responsibilities—work, relationships, and schoolwork—you may feel overwhelmed. After all, you have been away from school for quite some time, so your studying and learning habits may have changed. It may take a bit more time for you to adjust and get used to studying again. All of these elements will test your grit and determination. Your tenacity and commitment in achieving your goal lie on your willingness to stretch, your level of optimism and your ability to stay focused.
There is no such thing as being too educated. And if you’re driven to go back to school to further your career—and you’ve carefully considered the above four questions—then the outcome is sure to be a net positive. Will it be easy? No. Will it be time-consuming? Yes. But once you get that degree, and that raise, it will all have been worth it.