How To Decide If Going Back To School Is The Right Move
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When you realize the career you chose as an undergrad isn’t really the right one for you, the thought of going back to school can be comforting. After all, wouldn’t getting a graduate degree help refocus your career? With the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting a decline in hiring rates, the idea of going back to school might seem like a no-brainer, but reality is never that simple.
If you’re thinking about putting your career on hold to get an advanced degree, consider these five things before making your decision:
1. Education cost vs. future potential earnings
Ideally, the costs of going back to school will be offset by your future career earnings, but that is not always the case. Take, for example, the average cost of attending the top 10 business schools in 2013. According to US News & World Report, average cost of attendance for a two-year MBA program was $111,418. Add that to the wages you’ll be forfeiting, and you’ve got alot of ground to recover.
Consider the opportunity cost of your new education. Will you be able to recover the lost income? Will your new education land you a job that can make up the difference?
2. What’s your financial situation like?
The second thing to think about is whether or not you can afford going back to school at all. As discussed above, graduate school is expensive, and you have to pay for it somehow. While there are definitely scholarships out there, not everyone is lucky enough to land one. How will you pay for your education?
If you’re thinking loans are the answer, be careful. A March 2014 policy brief by the New America Foundation found that 40 percent of the $1 trillion in U.S. student loan debt belongs to graduate students. Consider whether or not you can afford to give up your income while you’re in school and how you’ll pay for it before you head back to the classroom.
3. Are you attacking your issues head on, or avoiding them?
For many people, going back to school is a good way to avoid the discomfort of not knowing if they’ve made the right choices. Wouldn’t it be better to attack the issues head on?
Before you leave the workforce and go back to school, think about whether a new degree will really solve the problems you’re having. Have you just fallen out of love with your organization or do you really want a career change? Has your current position stopped offering the challenges that you relished when you started, or have you stopped applying yourself in a productive way?
If you’re not sure about the answers to these questions, or you’re just looking for a way to delay making important decisions about your career, going back to school might be an expensive detour.
4. Do you want to switch fields, or just find a new job?
You get the idea — putting your career on hold and going back to school can be an expensive endeavor. Shouldn’t you be 100 percent sure that it’s the right decision before you pull the trigger?
Think about whether or not you actually want to switch fields, or if finding a new job is the better answer. Sometimes finding a similar job with a different organization can be refreshing. Other times, incorporating the new skills you’re interested in into your current position can be the answer.
If you really do want to change fields, consider whether or not taking an entry-level position in your new field is a better option. Often, the experience you gain and the network you can build, working from the bottom up, can be more valuable than going back to school.
5. Are there other ways to get experience?
The last thing to consider is whether or not there are other ways to gain experience in the new field you’re interested in. Rather than jumping back into school, try volunteering or interning part-time with an organization, to gain experience.
If that’s not an option, look for courses you can take on weekends or online certifications that will give you the experience you need to start a career in your new field. There are plenty of online learning opportunities that can get you up to speed without having to spend thousands on further education.
Putting your career on hold to go back to school is not a decision to be taken lightly. If you’re considering it, keep these five things in mind to ensure you’re making the decision based on the right reasons.