Hello, welcome back friends! In this blog I will be sharing my popular and unpopular opinions of why you should or should not enroll in graduate school. I’ll start by saying I’m a huge advocate for higher education, but the last thing I want to see is people close to me get in debt to reach goals they could have achieved without a master's degree. Committing to a master's degree is both time consuming and costly. Education is an investment and it’s important to evaluate face value what this investment will yield back in years to come! I'll start by sharing that I pursued my master's degree in systems engineering for various reasons, but largely because I knew it's something I wanted to do at some point in my life, and I took full advantage of the circumstances I was in (more on this later). If you have the money at your disposal and time for the investment, go for it! This blog post is probably not for you. Just know it’s not called a MASTERs for no reason, and remember it’s not about having a master's degree: having an additional degree does not guarantee anything. Just like a BS doesn’t guarantee anything either. A master degree DOES open another door of possibilities but it's about what YOU do with it and how you present it.
Reasons you SHOULD invest in a Master's Degree 1- You are striving to Pivot your Career Field Here is the scenario: you have experience or an undergraduate degree that is unrelated to the next field you want to explore. Most employers look for tangible impact and results that are obtained by professional experience and that is difficult to do when you don’t have the educational background for it. Studying a completely different discipline can bring you knowledge and skills to prepare for unique and high value jobs. This is not to say you cannot obtain experience in other fields without a degree though; some other things you can do are:
Have a personal project involving this new interest
Create a a side business
Helping in a start-up
Volunteer at a non-profit
Take 1-off courses
2-You want to be specialized/an expert… or want more Responsibilities In technical fields, masters degrees are most commonly known for having a deeper dive in a discipline. This can be awesome if you are interested in conducting research, creating a career in academia, or want to be a subject matter expert in something. In the case of business degrees: a master's degree can be used for the complete opposite: growing in leadership responsibility and scope. Similar to wanting to pivot your career field, you might want to stay in the same industry but want to work for a bigger company, an initiative that gives you more meaning, or maybe your current employer has limited opportunities for growth. Investing in a master's degree can lead you to new opportunities, especially when you are networking with professors with industry experience and other students that have similar aspirations as you.
Reasons You Should NOT invest in a Master's Degree: 3-Other’s people's expectations of You As first generation American's or first generation college graduates, it’s common for our lives to be driven by other's unspoken expectations. A good way for ensure this is something you WANT for yourself is too spend time reflecting with the following questions:
What do I want to obtain from a master's degree?/What is my Why?
Is this something that I have considered in the past: why or why not?
What are the outcomes I want to obtain from this degree?
At the end of the day, only YOU will go through the stresses and rewards of graduate school, do this for you! 4-Thinking that Your experience isn’t enough to get your Dream Job At the end of the day, it’s not about your credentials but HOW you choose to communicate and use them. Before striving to a commitment of another degree, I would suggest investing time in acquiring new sponsors, peer mentors, coaches and spend time rejuvenating your resume, and sharpening the way you talk about your experience. All of this takes time, and the next opportunity is waiting for you! 5-You think a master's degree will guarantee a Higher Salary This is why it is important to know your WHY, you don't want to do a huge investment and the find out you will have the same salary. Some companies do offer higher compensation for higher education, but some don't. Not to say you cannot use your master's degree for negotiations (I have done this in the past), but this does not mean that it will GUARANTEE an increase. If you have a current employer you can discuss your aspirations with leadership and see opportunities for funding. Microsoft, for example, offers up to $10,000 reimbursement for education per year. There are great funding opportunities out there including: scholarships, fellowships and others that you can take advantage before you pay out of pocket.
My unique Experience: I completed Masters degree right after my undergraduate degree for various reasons.
It gave me more time and skills to reach my dream industry
It helped me reach a unique role in a different industry from it's common practice
It was an aspiration I was going to pursue at some point in my life
I had the opportunities of being a research assistant and teaching assistant
It was fully funded
It was going to take me 1 year of time investment
I wanted to spend more time deepening my skills, and obtaining more industry experience in different sectors
Whatever your reasons are, obtaining a master's degree is never BAD, but debt is not a happy place. All my recommendations are coming from a place of good wishes for career advancement. As always, thanks for reading, and feel free to reach out if you have questions :)