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5 Things to Consider Before Pursuing a Graduate Degree

The desire to educate yourself is an admirable one, but enrolling in graduate school is also a complex decision worthy of serious consideration. In addition to your passion for learning about a particular subject, it is important to consider how this decision will impact your career and finances, as well as other factors. After all, you don’t want to be the guy who finds out halfway through the first semester that earning an MFA in creative writing isn’t the same thing as landing a book deal or that earning an LLM doesn’t qualify you to sit for the bar exam in your home state. Here are five things you should think about before enrolling in any graduate degree program:

1. Depth of Interest

This may sound obvious, but to spend two or more years studying a subject academically, you have to be really interested in it. A lot of people enjoy sitting around and leisurely wondering how other people’s minds work, but many of them would lose interest after a semester of graduate level coursework. Don’t go for a master’s in something you’re just curious about — go for your passion.

2. Career Path

Make certain to research what jobs will be available to you after graduation and what further options might open up several years down the line. Your graduate studies should lead into a meaningful job that will enable you to pay off your loans, at the very least.

3. Program Format

Are you willing to commute or relocate for a two-year, full-time program? Do you want to hold on to your current job or continue raising your children while taking night classes? Or would you prefer the flexibility offered by one of the new generation of high-quality online master’s programs?

4. Financing Options

Graduate school costs money, and the best schools tend to come with the highest price tags. Depending on your area of study, qualifications, experience and other factors, you may have several options for how to cover those expenses. Research grants, fellowships, scholarships, federal loans, private loans and the possibility of an employer financing you before dipping into your savings.

5. Return on Investment

Once you have an idea of where you want to go, how you’re going to finance your education and what kind of salary you’re likely to earn afterward, you can perform a return-on-investment calculation. Assuming you plug in all the right numbers, this formula will give you an estimate of how long it will take you to pay off your loans and begin reaping the financial rewards of your education.

There are a lot of factors to take into consideration before applying to graduate school, but if you make an informed decision, the odds are that you will be very happy with the program you end up in. Graduate school is the first chance many people have to engage in serious study of a subject they’re passionate about with a group of peers who share their fascination. It can also open doors into a career that you have hungered for or rapidly increase your earnings in the position you already have. The important thing is to make sure you’re going for the right reasons, so that you can enjoy your education and its rewards when they arrive.

Today’s guest article is provided by Melissa Woodson. She is the community manager for @WashULaw, a premier Masters of Law program offered through Washington University in St. Louis. In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking, and making half-baked attempts at training her dog.

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One Response to “5 Things to Consider Before Pursuing a Graduate Degree”

  1. Tina Wilson says:

    I’m currently considering graduate school, so I found this article to be extremely helpful! In addition to graduate school, I’m in the process of buying a house and new car. During my car search, I came across the GM College Discount and wanted to share it with you and your fans! Hope it helps! http://bit.ly/HglLki

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