Is Earning an Advanced Degree Right for Me?
So you’re thinking about going back for an advanced degree. Congratulations! The pursuit of higher knowledge is a worthy endeavor – and one that can potentially help improve your job prospects, too. However, the equation isn’t always as simple as “Earn a Master’s, get a better job, make more money.” Some fields require an advanced degree in order to work; for others, an advanced degree will simply make you more marketable for higher-level positions. And for other fields, earning another degree might not make a difference at all.
Whether or not an advanced degree is right for you depends on your field of expertise, your career goals and your life situation. Read on to discover four reasons why going back for an advanced degree is a good idea – as well as four reasons why it could not be the right choice for you.
4 Reasons to Go Back for an Advanced Degree
- You want to work in a field where it’s necessary. In certain career fields, an advanced degree is necessary to earn the proper qualifications for employment. For example, if you want to work in the field of psychology, a Doctorate degree is necessary to become licensed – and licensure is necessary to finding employment as a psychologist. Even a Master’s degree is required for most jobs where you will provide clinical services to the community, such as therapists and behavioral counselors. Without training on the advanced topics covered in Master’s and Doctorate programs, you won’t be properly qualified or prepared to provide mental health services.
Like psychology, law is another field where an advanced degree is necessary to obtain the proper credentials required for basic employment. To practice law in any state, you will need to become a licensed attorney by way of passing a state bar – and in order to sit for the bar in most states, you will need to have obtained your Juris Doctorate from an accredited law school.
- You want to be more marketable and expand your job prospects. In some fields, hard work, on-the-job training and years of experience are all you need to qualify for advanced positions. In many fields, however, you won’t make it far up the career ladder without an advanced degree. Take education, for example. If you want to move out of the classroom and into school administration, you will need a Master’s in Education or higher to get there. Many careers in the social sciences, such as economics, also require an advanced degree to qualify for higher-ranking, higher-paying jobs.
For some, a love of their profession translates to a career goal of becoming a tenured professor at a university – a goal that can only be attained by earning a Doctorate in their field. Without having thoroughly studied your field to the highest degree, you will not have the knowledge and skills necessary to become a top educator and expert.
- You are genuinely interested in learning more about your area of expertise. For some of us, the pursuit of knowledge is enough of a driving force to make the decision to earn an advanced degree. Graduate degree programs not only let you delve more in-depth into issues of interest to your personal and professional aspirations, but some programs also present the opportunity to conduct original research – allowing you to potentially make discoveries in your field that no one else has made yet.
- You want to switch fields. Perhaps you currently don’t enjoy the field you work in and want to make the switch to a different one. Depending on what undergraduate degree you earned, you may be able to use your Bachelor’s toward an advanced degree in a new field. While some graduate degree programs require a specific course of study in order to qualify, others are open to candidates from a variety of educational backgrounds. For example, Bachelor’s degrees in Journalism, Political Science or the Liberal Arts can help make students viable candidates for law school. Most MBA programs are also open to students with varied degrees.
3 Reasons NOT to Go Back for an Advanced Degree
While there are many good reasons to go back for a Master’s or Doctorate, there are also plenty of bad reasons to do it, too. Going back for an advanced degree is a commitment of time and money – and not a commitment you want to make for the wrong reasons. If any of the below are reasons why you’re looking at graduate school, you might want to take a step back and rethink if this is the right course of action for you at this time.
You’ve earned an undergraduate degree and aren’t really sure what you want to do next. If you are unsure where your professional aspirations lie, earning an advanced degree isn’t going to magically help you work that out. Perhaps you’re considering a Master’s because you don’t want to work in the field you studied in undergrad. If that’s the case, try getting some first-hand experience in the new field you’re considering before making the commitment to earn an advanced degree in it. Look for internship opportunities, or ask a professional in that field to let you shadow them at work. There’s no better way to know if you’ll enjoy a particular line of work than actually trying it out.
The economy is bad and there aren’t a lot of jobs. I should just wait a few years and maybe my prospects will get better. If it’s tough to find a job and make a decent living now, spending a few more year in college – and possibly accruing more debt – isn’t going to help your financial situation in the long-run. In a time when mounting student debt has become a national issue, any situation that requires a significant financial commitment isn’t something to take lightly.
I can’t get a decent job without a Master’s degree. While this is true for some fields (see #1 on the list above), many fields don’t require you to have an advanced degree to qualify for entry-level jobs. Perhaps you’re looking at a position above entry level and think that earning your Master’s will make you more qualified than other candidates. While it is true that having a Master’s can make you more marketable for higher-level roles, you shouldn’t underestimate the value of work experience. Graduating with a Master’s degree – but no relevant work experience – won’t always make you a more marketable candidate for those jobs than a candidate who has been in the field and already has relevant work experience.
It’s also important to keep in mind that, depending on the field, having a Master’s degree may make you overqualified for certain positions. If you have a Master’s and are looking at entry-level jobs, employers may assume that you will be bored in this role, or that they’ll have to pay you more because of your Master’s.
Bottom line: Be sure to research your field thoroughly before deciding if you really need an advanced degree.
Alliant’s Graduate Degree Programs
If you have thought it over and decided that earning the next-level degree is right for you, Alliant can help you take the next step. Our professional schools in Education, Psychology, Management and Law offer a variety of Master’s and Doctorate degree programs that can help you further your education, take the next step in your career or diversify your job prospects. If you are interested in learning more about any of our graduate programs – or if you have questions about if an advanced degree is right for your field of interest – we encourage you to contact us.