Should I Look For A New Job Or Go To Graduate School?

Sometimes we come to a crossroads in our careers and, as a result, we find it's time for a change. This change may be necessitated by a life event—you could need more income, or maybe your spouse's job is forcing a relocation requiring you to find something new. Perhaps you feel you've reached stagnancy in your career. Or, you're simply bored with what you're doing and ready to move on.

New Job Or Go To Grad School

Whether you're a seasoned veteran in the workforce or a recent graduate who wants to quickly move beyond entry level, you'll need to make some decisions at this crossroads. It often boils down to two choices—look for a new job or go to graduate school. Finding the answer to this question should involve thought, reflection, and soul-searching because it's not a decision to take lightly. You'll want to ask yourself some specific questions to help you discover just what it is you hope to accomplish.

What do you want to achieve?

Where do you want to be in your career? Think about whether or not your current career path will ultimately lead you to this place. If not, is your current direction leading you to a dead-end? If it's the former, a new job may be the right direction to go, however, if it's the latter, pursuing a graduate degree might be the answer. When weighing this question out consider:

  • Does your current career/industry hold your interest?
  • Are you happy in your career? (If not, why? What would make you happy?)
  • How can you reach your goals?

Whether or not you pursue an advanced degree or get a new job is likely largely going to depend upon where you are in life. If you're a recent grad wanting to scurry up the proverbial corporate ladder quickly, changing jobs is probably more of a lateral move, and it may make sense to jump back into school. For those established in the workplace, other factors, such as opportunities for advancement, family obligations, and feasibility, need to be considered.

Do you have a plan?

No bones about it, grad school is expensive. Generally speaking, you're looking at spending anywhere between $30,000 and $120,000 for an advanced degree. That being the case, you don't want to pursue a Master's (or Ph.D.) without a plan. You should also know not all advanced degrees are created equal. For instance, certain types of graduate degrees will absolutely boost your paycheck, but other disciplines really won't result in more earning power; you might earn the same amount money with a Bachelor's. Consider, would it be better to continue working and get the experience needed to earn the raises? Keep in mind, a graduate degree is going to be a commitment of two or more years. This could be time spent earning a paycheck instead of accumulating debt. Plus, there are those employers that want to see skills with measurable results, something a degree doesn't offer. If you weigh toward going back to school, be sure you have an education plan in place that will get the results you seek.

Tip: Try a grad school calculator to do a comparison and some number crunching.

What does the job market look like in your field?

As a part of the decision-making equation, you'll want to check out what the forecast is for your current career path. Some industries, such as healthcare or technology, are booming and not expected to slow down in the near future. Other industries, however, aren't growing so fast. If your industry is slowing down or becoming obsolete, now might be a good time to go back to school so you can transition into another field. If you're already in a hot job industry, you'll want to weigh if there is enough upward movement to continue working or if an advanced degree would be worth the investment.

Best of both worlds?

You also might want to consider if you can simply do both. Many people currently in the workforce work full or part time and attend classes. There are schools that cater to people working by offering courses at night, weekends and online. As a bonus, some employers might even pick up some—or all—of the tab, so that’s definitely something to factor in when trying to decide.

Bottom line is, you'll have to decide if pursuing grad school will be worth the energy, expense and time. If you find your passion and it will help you move upward or into the field you want to be, then the investment is worth it. But if you're going back to school to avoid "real life" or because you don't know what else to do, you'll want to do some heavy self-evaluation and reflection before committing to grad school. If not, you'll end up with a lot of debt and not necessarily have the outcome you hoped for.

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