When I graduated college with my business/IT degree and got my first corporate job, I saw many of my coworkers going off to college again to get their technical masters or MBA. I wondered whether I should do the same.
Six years later, I’m finally back in school for my masters degree. Why did it take so long?
The answer: I didn’t want to rush into something I would regret or wouldn’t use. The hot thing to do in my line of work was to either get a computer science masters or an MBA. Not being a programmer or “true techie” myself, I didn’t think a very technical degree was right for me, so that left an MBA to consider. But I was just out of college. I barely had enough experience to even add to a resume, and I was thinking of advancing my career further?
So here’s a question for you: When should you go back to school for a graduate degree?
- Get it all over with as soon as possible. Therefore go back to school when your brain is still open to learning and you probably don’t have kids or other heavy commitments yet.
- Wait until you get more job experience. We’ll talk about this more.
- Never. Do you really need more education?
First, let’s ask this. Does your field thrive on higher learning? Is it impossible to advance without a masters or PhD? In many science fields (chemistry, psychiatry, rocket scientist), you simply can’t get further than the mailroom without a top degree. Question answered; You need an advanced degree (or degrees).
Next, let’s ask this. Can you get more out of a degree if you understand your field more first? I could have gone to any related degree program on the company ‘s full dime, but did that mean I HAD to take advantage of it? Five years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do THAT YEAR, much less for the next 5 years. Did I want to lock up my evenings and weekends for the next 3 years?
Looking back, I’m glad that I didn’t go for an MBA, because after being in my field for 6 years, I know I don’t need that type of education. I’ve gone back for a degree directly related to my career today and probably the next 5 years. But I also regret not taking advantage of my former company’s excellent tuition benefit and the time before getting married and owning a home.
I am now more aware of alternative ways of earning a specialized, advanced degree as well, such as doing it through an online university. This would have been the perfect way to go about it for me, since I would not have had to attend classes at night and could have completed the coursework from my own home. These online programs offer access to the coursework 24/7, so I would have been able to do the work on my own time, while still being able to connect with the same professors as on-campus students.
For those of you uncertain about your intentions for the future, consider WHY you want/should get a graduate degree before thinking about which one. I initially thought I should get a masters simply because it seemed like everyone else was doing the same. There are many options out there that make it easy to get one, like the many online masters degree programs. In actuality, it was just the most visible people getting their degrees. Having a masters would have helped me get positions like systems architect on contracts that I’m currently excluded from, but without that education, I would have fallen short of meeting the demands of that position.
So, getting this degree comes at a both critical and a worthwhile point in my career. I know what I want to get out of my education, because I see my own deficiencies from my experiences.
Now, ask yourself this one. Do you just like learning, or do you miss the college atmosphere? I actually know people who went back for a masters because they wanted to relive their undergrad days. Unfortunately, working full-time and going to school only a few nights per week doesn’t quite live up to those party days of yore, and they get bored with school quickly. I also know a few people with 3-4 masters degrees, but they work as system administrators (a job I did out of college). They’re just plain overeducated.
But ultimately, if your company is willing to foot the full bill and you have ample free time, AND you know what you want to get out of the degree (aka “a goal”), then I say GO FOR IT! Get your masters now, but always keep your goal in mind, and don’t let your personal and professional life suffer too much either.
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