Going back to school to earn a master’s is a big decision. You’ll likely spend hours researching options on the higher education path you plan to pursue. Then, after mapping out your postsecondary education track, you’ll probably start conducting a search for good universities that will offer you the degree plan you desire. But before you get too far along in the process, it’s a smart idea to ask yourself one important question: Am I even ready for a master’s degree?
Although it sounds great on paper, postsecondary education is a major commitment. To help you determine if now is the right time for you to add a master’s to your résumé, we compiled a list of five questions to help you know if you’re ready to roll:
- Do I want to make more money over the course of my lifetime? For most people, the answer to this is a definite “Yes!” Research supports the notion that a master’s degree can lead to a bigger income. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with master’s degrees have higher median earnings and lower unemployment rates than those with a bachelor’s degree.* Of course, no two career fields are the same. Every industry offers different salary-boosting potential, so this is where diligent research comes in handy.
- Do I feel “stuck” in my current job? You might be mulling over earning a master’s degree because you’re dissatisfied with the work you’re doing now and want to develop the skills and knowledge that will help you change careers. Alternatively, you may be happy with your present employer but desire a different position that requires a master’s. Or you might be prompted purely by personal reasons; for as long as you can remember, it’s been your life’s goal to add multiple letters after your name. No matter the reason, earning your master’s might be the right answer for you.
- Can I balance my postsecondary education with my family and career? When your schedule is already busy, adding in the extra demand of a earning a graduate degree can be tough. Keep in mind that most master’s programs last at least 2 years. Although it’s hard to know what it will be like until you’re actually enrolled in classes, you should take some time to ponder the idea. Talking to your boss, chatting with your loved ones, and doing some serious self-reflection will go a long way toward helping you decide. The good news is that thanks to today’s technology, attending online school and taking online classes is a viable alternative for potential grad students to earn their master’s.
- Is higher education in my budget? First, there’s tuition and fees, along with books and assorted supplies. All of those costs add up fast. Do you already have money set aside that you can tap into? Will you need to take out a loan to help fund your master’s journey? Thankfully, most universities these days offer scholarships, grants, and additional sorts of assistance. What’s more, numerous students qualify for and receive some kind of financial aid. During your research phase, you’ll want to look at the types and amounts of financial aid or other assistance the universities on your list offer prospective students.
- Do I want to create more opportunities for myself? Get ready to meet a lot of new people during your higher education career, including fellow students, alumni, professors, and more. Not only will you forge lasting friendships, but you’ll also make valuable connections that could benefit you down the road. Many graduate students gain important mentors who serve a vital role, providing advice, guidance, and wisdom as they work toward earning their master’s. Peers, as well, provide invaluable support and encouragement and could end up being your future colleagues. When you start pursuing your master’s degree, you’re also enhancing your chances for personal and professional growth. Not to mention the fact that you’ll also feel proud of yourself for accomplishing your goal.
As mentioned earlier, online schools make it easier than ever to earn a master’s degree because you can do it on your own schedule. Instead of spending time (and money) commuting to and from campus, you can earn your master’s from whatever location is most convenient for you. Another bonus is that online learning enables you to easily interact with classmates and faculty, connecting and communicating whenever and wherever you choose. Plus, online universities can help you strike a workable balance between career, family, and school.
One final word of advice: Accreditation is a mark of quality. If you decide you’re ready to pursue your master’s degree, be sure that your list of universities includes accredited online schools as you conduct your search.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering master’s degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, Unemployment Rates and Earnings by Educational Attainment, U.S. Department of Labor, on the internet at www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.