Returning to school for a graduate degree can be a sensible career move, as many fields require or prefer a graduate or professional degree. It might also help if you are changing careers.
At the same time, graduate school is a major investment, so it is important that you spend plenty of time reflecting and researching your options before committing.
Here are four factors to consider as you decide:
Your goals: Do you have a firm career goal in mind? Does achieving your goal require that you complete a (specific) graduate or professional degree? Having clear goals helps ensure that you select the program (and school) that will best prepare you. Going to grad school without a clear plan, or to postpone a job search, might not bring the results you hope for. Clarity of goals is arguably the most important factor in moving forward.
Industry norms: Do most people in your chosen field have a graduate degree? Would certificate or licensing programs be a viable and less expensive option? Will you realize the return on investment you are hoping for? Research not only whether a graduate degree is expected, but whether a specific graduate degree is preferred. Read current job postings for the job you want after grad school, and use LinkedIn to research profiles of people currently in similar roles. Networking and informational interviewing will also help you learn more about expectations and the differences between individual graduate programs.
Your circumstances: Are you able to step out of the workforce for school, or take classes while you continue working? Can you afford tuition? Will your employer help finance your degree? Will you need to relocate? Was your undergraduate GPA strong? Will you need to take prerequisites? Do you have the time to dedicate to attending classes and completing assignments? These questions, and others, will determine your readiness and ability to move forward.
Timing: When should you apply? Are there other milestones you want to complete first? Do you have family commitments or obligations to consider? Does it make sense for you to apply now, or to wait a year (or two)? Determine the time frame that will make the most sense for you.
If you are considering applying to grad school, visit the Grad School Resources section of our website, and check out the webinar, 4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding to Apply to Grad School.