Imagine yourself walking across a stage for the conferring of your master’s degree. The audience claps and cheers, and you can’t stop the smile that’s spreading across your face. You did it! You earned your master’s degree!
If that imagined scene fills you with excitement, then you might be a great candidate for grad school. Of course, getting your master’s is not just about having others applaud your success. You will also gain in-depth knowledge and form valuable connections. These benefits can lead to career advancement and increased earnings.
Ahead, you will find nine reasons to consider going back to school. If several of them resonate with you, it might be time to start researching grad programs and submitting applications to your top schools.
1) Jumpstart Your Career
If you’re about to graduate with your bachelor’s degree, you may be asking yourself, “What should I do with my life?” Do not be surprised if “Go to grad school!” is the best answer for you.
Going straight from a bachelor’s program to a master’s program can be a great choice because you’re already in the college mindset. What are a few more semesters of books and studying at that point?
In fact, to encourage you to pursue this path, many schools offer one-year master’s programs that can be tacked onto the end of a bachelor’s program.
Once you graduate with both your bachelor’s and your master’s degrees in hand, you will be set to skip over entry-level positions in the workforce. Instead, you may be able to land a mid- to upper-level supervisory or management position right away.
2) Advance Your Opportunities
Of course, if you’re already in the workforce, your reasons for considering grad school might be quite different. For you, one of the best reasons for getting your master’s degree may be that you want to move up in your career.
Only about 8% of Americans have master’s degrees. By earning your degree, you will set yourself apart from the other nine-tenths of the population. That credential will look great on your resume and demonstrate to potential employers that you are a well-qualified, highly educated candidate.
In some fields, getting a master’s degree is about more than just set yourself apart from other candidates. It is absolutely essential for career advancement. To become a librarian, you must first get a master’s degree in library science.
Nurse practitioners must, at a minimum, hold a Master of Science in Nursing. To take the exam to become a certified public accountant, you have to log many credit hours, which can be earned in a master’s program. In these fields and many others, without a master’s, you’re relegating yourself to a lifetime of assistant-level positions.
3) Chart a New Course
Instead of advancing along your current career path, are you ready to switch to something new? Earning a master’s degree may be the ticket to getting started in a different field.
For example, working as an elementary or secondary teacher requires that you have a teaching certificate. Many master’s in teaching programs offer licensure tracks so that you will be able to earn your teaching credentials for the first time.
Not every new path has to involve a major leap. Instead, your master’s program may allow you to just tweak your focus a bit. If you’re currently a social worker, you might want to pursue a human services master’s degree so that you can coordinate beneficial programs instead of working one-on-one with clients. You could also jump from business to public relations, accounting to finance, or manufacturing to supply chain management.
4) Pursue Your Passions
Hopefully, you chose your field of study because it was something that you loved. A master’s degree program will allow you to delve even deeper into your chosen discipline. For several semesters, you can surround yourself with scholarly articles and rich teaching on topics that are important to you. You will also have opportunities to talk with like-minded classmates, conduct research, complete projects or even serve internships in your area of interest.
Many schools offer concentrations for their master’s degrees. Choosing an area of specialization allows you to take classes that go right along with your field of interest. Even if your program does not offer concentrations, you may be able to select electives that appeal to you. Choosing the right classes may increase your engagement with the program, and it can also ensure that you will gain valuable insight that is directly applicable to your career path.
5) Gain Networking Opportunities
Classroom learning is an essential component of the grad school experience, but it shouldn’t be your only takeaway. During your master’s program, you will have many opportunities to network with others in your field. These connections can make a positive difference in your career for years to come.
Networking opportunities in grad school include:
- You can join student associations that are schoolwide or specific to your area of study. Even online programs often offer the opportunity to join on-campus or digital student groups.
- Make good use of faculty office hours. It is important to communicate with your professors, ask for their insight and put their advice into practice.
- Whether a short-term practicum or a year-long accumulation of clinical hours, the hands-on portions of your studies can be invaluable for getting to know people in the field.
- Especially if your program is geared toward working professionals, your classmates may have valuable connections that they will share with you.
- Join industry-wide organizations for access to conferences, newsletters and more. Many groups offer discounted rates for students.
6) Stay at the Forefront of Your Field
In a world of increasing technology and globalization, industries can change quickly. Going back to school can help you stay up-to-date on the latest developments in your field. You will learn about new theories and technologies, and that knowledge will make you a valuable employee.
It may also give you an edge when it comes to job security. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, master’s holders have lower unemployment rates than people with bachelor’s degrees. The advanced, cutting-edge knowledge that a master’s program provides may help you hold onto your position when others in your company are losing their jobs.
7) Prepare for a Doctorate
Do you have your sights set on a Ph.D. or another doctoral degree? Earning your master’s can help you get there. Not all doctoral programs require you to first get a master’s degree, but many do.
A master’s program will also provide a taste of grad school so you can get a feel for what it’s like. After completing your first graduate degree, you will have a better idea of whether you want to keep going with your education.
8) Boost Your Confidence
Big accomplishments feel great. When you graduate from your master’s program, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you worked hard and accomplished something amazing. That boost of confidence may give you the courage to apply for your dream job, open your own business or work toward another goal.
Keep in mind that, although it’s great to pursue a master’s for personal satisfaction, you should not do it just to make others happy. Master’s programs require a major investment of time and money. Before beginning, carefully consider whether further education is what you really want or if you’re doing it just to please others.
9) Increase Your Earning Potential
Finally, it can’t be denied that one of the top reasons to pursue a master’s degree is so that you can make more money. Yes, a master’s program can be expensive, but the ROI may be worth it in the long run.
For example, in the computer science industry, you may earn $14,172 more each year with a master’s than you would with a bachelor’s degree. In business administration, your master’s degree could net you an additional $27,447 per year.
Plus, scholarships, grants, and fellowships can help offset your tuition costs. With these types of financial aid lowering your initial investment, you will be able to fully enjoy your increased earnings in years to come.
Is Grad School Right for You?
No doubt about it, grad school can be tough. You can expect to spend a lot of time, effort and brainpower earning your degree. But if going to school is what you really want, you will likely find that the investment is worth it.
What are your reasons for going back to school? Are you looking for a jumpstart in your career, a shift in focus or a higher paying salary? Perhaps you’re hoping to strengthen your network or gain cutting-edge knowledge and skills. If those are your goals, grad school may be the best way to achieve them.
To make the final decision about whether you should go back to school, spend time researching master’s programs. Once you find one whose faculty, curriculum and format fill you with excitement and anticipation, you will know you’re on the right path.