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When is the right time for grad school?


Your career seems like it’s at a standstill. A friend has suggested graduate school, and you’re starting to think about it seriously.

Still, how long is it going to take to earn a master’s degree? Can you really do this now —with your family, your job and a life that’s already busy?

A graduate degree can accelerate the career you already have and push you up the corporate ladder, or it can lead you into a new field.

And will it make a difference? Will you get a big enough pay increase with your new degree to make it worthwhile? Will your boss or future employers really pay attention to the new degree?

>> Take our nine-question quiz to figure out if you’re ready.

Let’s look a little closer at a few of these issues.

Fitting it in

While some graduate programs – like law school – can require three years (or even longer), others require only a year or two to complete.

And depending on what degree and what school you choose, you may not have to quit your job.

Universities now offer more flexibility with online courses, part-time degree programs and distance learning. Some degree programs allow you to slow it down or hit pause for a few months if your life gets too busy.

Calculating the ROI

Once you decide you can handle the time commitment of graduate school, consider the financial commitment – and the return on that investment.

Many master’s programs offer fellowships — think of them as the grad school equivalent of scholarships — and will help you find other financial aid. Some employers will pay for all or part of graduate school, especially if it makes you a more valuable, skilled employee.

More important than the cost of a degree is the return you’ll get on your investment in tuition and time. Your choice of degree matters a lot. A master’s in a business-related field or one that provides in-demand skills can easily pay for itself in just a few years.

Researchers from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce have found that workers with a graduate degree in their field earn an average of 38.3 percent more than those with a bachelor’s degree in the same field.

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Considering career choices

Finally, keep in mind why you’re considering graduate school. A graduate degree can accelerate the career you already have and push you up the corporate ladder, or it can lead you into a new field.

Degrees that offer concrete business skills, such as a Master of Accounting degree, are a good example. Understanding the financial ins-and-outs of your company makes you a more valuable employee.

Maybe you majored in marketing but have plateaued. A master’s degree in accounting could set you up to become a chief financial officer at an advertising agency.

Or maybe healthcare is your true passion, but you don’t have the time or money for medical school. A master’s degree that teaches you about finance and budgeting could lead to a financial management job at a hospital.

Or maybe you’re thinking about switching careers. A Master of Accounting degree gives you the tools to fully understand the finances of any organization.

One more factor to consider: Where you get your degree matters. The stronger the reputation of the school you choose, the more credible your degree and new skills will be.

Think you might be ready for graduate school?
Download our free assessment to help you decide. It’s a short, nine-question, multiple-choice quiz that connects your life – and your career – to the jump into a graduate degree program. It’s very useful (and a little fun, too).