Many careers these days want to see that you have a master’s degree. Often a bachelor’s just isn’t’ enough. And if it is, you may watch your colleagues pass you by because they do have that higher degree. The thought of going back to school may be overwhelming, but it might be easier than you think. And the rewards of a master’s degree may outweigh any of the stress involved in getting it. A few things are good to know beforehand to help make this journey easier…
1. Decide what you want your degree to be in.
If you love what you’re already doing, stay with it. If you love what your bachelor’s degree is in and want to pursue that field, stay with it. Because it’s a smooth transition, many people do that. However, you can earn a graduate degree in a different field; you may just have to take some additional classes. Often people go into something related, for instance, if your undergraduate degree is in political science, you may decide to pursue a Master’s of Public Administration. This could help you get a position within a government agency or in a law office, or in a non-profit field related to government or social work.
2. Decide how you want to go to school. You can always go the traditional route, but now it’s fairly easy to take your graduate classes online. Some people like online classes for the convenience while they work, while others enjoy them because they don’t have to physically go to the school, saving time on commuting or away from home. People sometimes think that online classes mean a less rigorous curriculum. As long as your college is accredited, your online classes should be just the same as the ones taught on campus. Whether you live nearby or farther away, you should still have the same access to materials and professors as on campus students, and sometimes you can even have certain campus fees waived as an online student.
3. Decide how much time you have. Time is a huge factor when considering a graduate degree. Do you have a full time job to contend with? Young children that need your attention? Maybe you have plenty of time, as graduate work was always part of your plan. Do you want to take classes one by one or just as you did as an undergraduate with a full load? These are all things to think about. Maybe the idea is daunting because you think you have to go back full time, but for many programs, you can take as long as you want (within reason). Time management is always a factor in graduate work, whether online or in a traditional classroom. Think about what will work best for you.
4. Decide on your long term career goals. What do you see yourself doing career wise in 10 years? Think about what field you’d like to be. Think about some financial goals. These things should help you decide on your graduate school path, which in turn should make it easier to obtain that degree. Again, a career in something like public administration affords lots of option and different paths to take, while the graduate degree provides you an excellent, relevant skill set to be successful in a wide variety of jobs and positions.
5. Decide what changes you’ll have to make. Maybe all will stay the same when you go back to graduate school, but maybe not. Perhaps you’ll have to tighten up on some finances while you’re in school to pay tuition. That may mean less dinners out or concerts to attend. Are you okay with that? Will your spouse help more with the kids and household chores? Are you both okay with that? The more realistic you are about the changes ahead, the easier they’ll be. The more on board those around you are, the easier studying and taking time for class will be. Know what you’re getting into, but also remember the pay off ahead.
Going back to school is exciting. It’s a step towards a more successful, lucrative and satisfying future. Sure, every step may not be easy, but with commitment and drive, it will be manageable, and once you have that master’s degree in hand, it will all be worth it.
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