Are you thinking of going to grad school? If so, think long and hard about whether the time, commitment, money and elbow grease it demands will give you a good return on your investment. You might have sailed effortlessly through your undergraduate years without letting it crimp your style, but graduate programs are different. They’re a lot of work, and they’re expensive. Unless you have rich parents, a full scholarship, or some serious bank of your own, your degree will probably leave you with substantial student loan debt. Nonetheless, going to graduate school can be a wise investment in your future and a seriously smart idea. Here are five examples of when going to graduate school can be well worth your while.

You Need a Graduate Degree to Work in Your Field

Do you want to be a college professor, an astronaut, an anthropologist or a clinical psychologist? If so, you’re going to need a doctoral degree just to get your foot in the door. For most people, getting a Ph.D. takes five to eight years. However, the great majority of jobs that require graduate school require only a master’s degree, and you can complete it in one or two years if you attend school full time.

Your Employer Will Pay For Grad School

Companies like Starbucks will actually pay your tuition if you want to go to grad school. Unless you are absolutely certain that a master’s degree would be a total waste of your time, consider taking your employer up on the offer and getting a master’s degree. Since you’ll probably be working full time and going to school part time, it may take two or more years to get your degree, but ask yourself what you would be doing with the time if you weren’t in school? Your employer might even allow you to work part time while you attend classes. Getting a master’s degree now can qualify you for a higher-level position and a larger paycheck later on.

You Want a New Career

Rather than going back to undergrad school and getting a bachelor’s degree in another field, there are many instances where you can already hold a bachelor’s degree in one field and get a master’s degree that qualifies you to work in another a field.

You Want to Advance in Your Present Position

There are many fields in which you can work at one level with a bachelor’s degree and a higher level with a master’s degree. Social work is one example. Although there are social work jobs that only require an undergraduate degree, going to grad school and earning an MSW will qualify you for increased responsibilities, a wider range of positions and, of course, a larger paycheck.

You Want to Increase, Broaden and Improve Your Skill Set

Let’s say you’re an artist with a fine arts degree who paints watercolors. You believe your work would be enhanced and your ability to create in other mediums broadened if you were to get a master of fine arts degree. You don’t know if going to grad school would increase your earnings, although if it did you would not complain. However, your bottom-line motivation for getting an MFA is that it would jump start your creativity and bring you greater artistic satisfaction.

Unlike undergraduate programs where you are basically just attending classes, writing papers and taking exams, masters and doctorate programs provide you with the academic equivalent of working in a professional position. It can feel very much like on-the-job training, and by the time you complete your degree, you’ll be ready to step into a job in your chosen field and get the job done. Just be as certain as possible that what you are going to grad school to learn is something that you really want to do.

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