Whether or not to pursue a graduate degree is one of the biggest choices you'll make over the course of your career. There are a lot of pros and cons to getting a master's degree and you should definitely weigh your options before making a decision. There's plenty that you might not ordinarily think of.
For example, one of the primary reasons most students cite for pursuing a graduate degree is improving their financial prospects, so it can be useful to think early about what kind of income protection insurance you might want to feel secure in the future. When thinking about going back to school, things like insurance companies or unemployment insurance probably don't even come to mind, so let's go over nine things to consider before pursuing a master's degree.
How much do you enjoy studying?
It's easy to say you miss school when you've had a few years away, but do you really enjoy reading, going to classes, and immersing yourself in research? Don't just go back because you feel stalled in your career, make sure you're going to be motivated enough to do the work.
Do you need a degree for your career?
While not every job requires a graduate degree, there are certain fields that make a master's compulsory. Do your research and find out if a master's degree is a requirement or a preference. Often in fields like data science, public health, speech-language pathology, and biomedical engineering, a master's is mandatory. You can also get into the healthcare field with a medical program like an MBA in business.
Can you afford it?
Depending on the type of program you're looking at, tuition could be anywhere from free to $50,000 per year or more. Think carefully about your financial situation and what kind of increased income your degree might bring before making a decision.
Will this advance your career?
In some industries, work experience is just as valuable as continued study, but in some cases, a master's is a prerequisite for advancement. There are also geographic differences, for example, many entry-level jobs in Europe require a master's degree. Figure out what your own occupation necessitates.
Are you changing careers?
A graduate degree can jumpstart a career change. Not all disciplines will accept you for postgraduate study if your undergraduate degree is completely unrelated, but many broader fields will.
Is this program a good fit?
Don't just shop based on name recognition or what you've heard from friends. One of the most important factors to consider is a school's alumni network, which will help you after you finish your degree.
Can you work while in school?
Most grad students do work full or part-time during their studies. It can be difficult to balance the two, so make sure you check with your employer and confirm that your work responsibilities won't interfere with your studies, and vice versa.
Will you make substantially more money?
In an uncertain economic climate, one of the most common reasons cited for wanting a graduate degree is financial security. How much of a return you get on your investment depends on what kind of degree you earn and what industry you hope to work in.
Some industries put more of a premium on advanced degree programs than others. Still, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly earnings for a person with a high school degree are $730 compared to $1,434 for those with a master's degree.
How do you protect my future earnings?
After you've invested your time and money into advancing your career through continued education, how can you make sure you're protected for the future? It's one thing to work hard to secure a good job, but it's another thing to be secure when you can't work. Always popular with students in medical programs and PhD programs, income protection insurance is becoming more and more common across disciplines.
When you're unable to work due to illness or injury, income protection insurance can make sure you cover your expenses until you're back on your feet. Paid out much like federal government benefits, income protection insurance is the best way to ensure a monthly income when you're unable to work. You might not have realized there was an insurance policy that protects your income this way. The type of insurance plan you're eligible for can vary based on your age, location, medical history, occupation, and income.
The biggest advantage of income protection insurance is that it can provide up to 75% of your annual salary, ensuring that your standard of living won't have to significantly change just because you're out of work. Workers' compensation often doesn't cover anywhere near that amount. There are a lot of different types of coverage and variables, so make sure to do your research to find the best income protection insurance.
There are two parts to your decision about a master's degree. First, you have to think about what you want and whether or not it's a realistic goal for you. The second is understanding how to use income protection and other tools to maintain your financial security once you've started to build your career.