If college graduation is looming on the horizon for you, you may be wondering what to do next. Should you continue your education and enroll in a Master’s program? Or should you start looking for a full time job and get to work? With the job market in the poor condition it is, many people are thinking about continuing their education. This choice has been on my mind lately because graduation is fast approaching for me. With graduation commencement in February, I’ve been doing my research about the pros and cons of enrolling in a Master’s program.

There are some obvious “pros” to receiving a Master’s degree, beginning with advanced knowledge in a specific field of study. If you love to learn and have the funds to do so, go for it! If you have grants, scholarships, hit the lottery, or just have the money to be able to continue your education right after an undergraduate degree then you should. However, based on my own conversations with professors and employers, I recommend that you get as much on-the-job training in your chosen field as you can while still in school. If you emerge from a Master’s program with no real work experience it may be more difficult for you to find a job than if you had begun working right after receiving your undergraduate degree.

It won’t surprise you to know that finding work requires work, but it can also be very interesting. Join professional organizations, become an intern or a volunteer in your field. You should also go on informational interviews to network, meet people in your field, and see where the hiring trends are leading. By meeting people and getting hands-on experience while still in school, you will have people who remember you and will be more likely to help you find a position or even hire you after graduation.

For certain career fields it is necessary to receive a Master’s degree to be able to work in that specific field. Some examples include social work and college professors. There are also other fields where a Masters degree is not necessary but will definitely improve your pay rate and opportunities for advancement such as nursing, psychology and engineering.

If you find you do not fall into a category that requires a Master’s degree, you have some serious thinking and researching to do before making a choice about post-graduate education. Many professionals suggest finding a job and working for a while before deciding to go back to school. And here is a key point:- according to MSN’s personal finance columnist Liz Pulliam Weston, unless you’re becoming a lawyer or a doctor, the payoff from a Master’s degree in fields like liberal arts will only increase overall pay per month by $5. At that rate, the time and cost of the degree is not worth the payoff. 

According to Weston, of the Return on Investment of an Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and professional degrees are as follows:

–                           Associate’s degrees are a slam-dunk. These two-year degrees seem to result in a massive payback compared to their relatively low cost, for a high school graduate.

–                           Ditto, usually, a Bachelor’s degree. Any Bachelor’s degree you get at a public university is likely to pay off handsomely, as well. If you’re attending a private college, though, you might want to steer clear of education degrees.

–                           Some degrees are a step back. Thinking of a Master’s degree in liberal arts or social sciences? Lets hope you in it for the love of learning, because on average there doesn’t seem to be any financial payoff.

–                           Professional degrees rule. There’s a reason why people borrow tons of money to attend law and medical schools. The return for a professional degree if huge.

The rest of Weston’s informative article can be read at http://on-msn.com/4TxYB. The New York Times also had an interesting opinion piece about whether or not a Master’s degree is worth the cost. It posed the question to a Columbia University professor, a former university president, a personal finance columnist (Weston), and an economist from Ohio University. All of the panelists cautioned against jumping into a Master’s degree program without A.) serious thought and B.) the absolute need to spend the money for a specific degree. You can access this article at http://nyti.ms/13vbrM.

            I asked Dr. Janice Presser, CEO/founder of The Gabriel Institute, what she thought students should be researching when looking into programs. She provided these four simple questions to get you started, “What will I learn? Who will I learn it from? What will it cost me, and what will my ROI be?” Another important question to ask yourself: how do the initial earnings of a Master’s grad compare to the initial earnings of the departments BA grads that work in the field.

            There are many factors that go into making the decision to enroll in a post-graduate degree program. Whether or not it is appropriate for you will largely depend on your specific field of study, and your monetary situation. My advice is to do your research and fully understand what continued education will mean for you.

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