Going to graduate school is a big investment in yourself and your career — one that can be extremely rewarding for years to come. In addition to advancing your skills in a niche subject and growing your professional knowledge, obtaining an advanced degree improves your job prospects and increases your lifetime earning potential.
However, making the decision to continue or return to school can be difficult as there are a lot of factors to consider. Perhaps you’re exploring possible career paths and wondering, should I get a master’s degree? Is a master’s worth it?
The benefits of earning a master’s degree are undisputed, but to determine if it’s the right path for you, you should first evaluate why you want to pursue a graduate degree and how it might impact your life. Before beginning any grad school applications, take some time to consider your personal and professional goals and how a graduate degree could help you achieve them. Read on as we explore a few areas for your consideration.
Should I Go to Grad School? Deciding if a Master’s Degree is Right for You
When deciding to pursue a master’s, you should explore the ways a graduate degree could help you grow professionally. Are you interested in a career that requires (or encourages) an advanced degree? Would you like to become a more competitive candidate in today’s job market? Are you hoping for a promotion or salary increase in your current profession?
While certain jobs only require a bachelor’s degree, other occupations may prefer an advanced degree, even at the entry level. However, even if a master's degree isn’t required, the added knowledge and experience that a rigorous graduate program provides could make you a more compelling candidate for job placement, promotions, and pay raises throughout your career. Holding an advanced or professional degree can open doors to opportunities that might otherwise have been unattainable.
It is also important to consider whether a graduate degree aligns with your personal goals. Is there a particular field or subject matter that you would like to pursue in depth? Are you able to invest in the commitment an advanced degree requires? Have you always wanted to earn a master’s degree? How will pursuing a graduate degree benefit you and your family in the long run?
Pursuing a graduate degree is a commitment that requires time, attention, and sometimes sacrifice. It can mean temporarily juggling more responsibilities than normal. The great news is that many programs offer flexible options, making it easier to earn your degree while accommodating your already busy schedule.
When you complete a graduate degree program, you’re not only building your professional credentials, you’re also reaching a major personal milestone
Pro-Tip: If you want to know what you can expect from a graduate program, be sure to explore these 8 important differences between undergraduate and graduate school.
Is a Master’s Degree Worth It? A Look at the Value of Earning a Graduate Degree
Unlike most undergraduate degrees, master’s programs provide opportunities for hands-on research and work experience in the field. The narrowed focus in a graduate program gives you the opportunity to build an in-depth understanding of important concepts that you can readily apply to your professional life.
Earning a master’s degree or comparable professional degree can substantially improve your professional outlook when compared to bachelor’s degree holders. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017, the median wage for masters-level occupations was $68,090 — significantly higher than the median wage for all occupations at $37,690. Additionally, employment in careers requiring a master’s degree is expected to increase by almost 17 percent by 2026 (the fastest of any education level) making now the ideal time to earn a graduate degree.
In addition to boosting your career outcomes, graduate school is a time to make lasting connections. Graduate programs are smaller and more close-knit than undergrad, making them ideal for building your network. As you receive help and guidance from fellow students and faculty members, you’ll be able to cultivate a network that can lead to opportunities down the road.
How to Get a Master’s Degree: Our Top 3 Tips for Getting into Grad School
So, you’ve decided to follow your passion and pursue a graduate degree. This is an exciting time, but you may still have some questions about how to get started. As you prepare to start your applications, here are our top three tips for getting into grad school and beginning your journey on the right foot:
1. Do your research.
The first major step in getting into grad school is finding a program that is the right fit. Students often ask, how many grad schools should I apply to? The answer is unique to every individual, and you may find the number to be significantly smaller than the one for undergrad. When choosing where to apply and the number of applications to submit, it’s important to ask yourself, does this program meet my needs? Will it help me achieve my personal and professional goals in a meaningful and fulfilling way?
Explore the program’s website, reach out to admissions professionals, and attend online or in-person events, if possible. Get familiar with the program and look into available financing options. Find out if you qualify for any scholarships, assistantships, graduate student loans, or employer reimbursement programs.
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2. Tap into your existing network and support system.
Having a support system will be important throughout your graduate school journey. Start preparing your friends, family, and coworkers by communicating your goals and how they can be a source of encouragement and support while you’re a grad student.
Reach out to current or former professors, bosses, or mentors and let them know you’re considering graduate school. You may discover that they are eager to answer questions and offer advice as you embark on this journey. They may also offer valuable insights and additional resources that can assist you throughout the process.
Finally, make sure you secure letters of recommendation from trusted references who know you well and ask a friend or mentor to review your application materials to check for errors or inconsistencies before you hit submit.
3. Get familiar with the application process.
Submitting a meticulously crafted and timely application is a critical step on your journey to getting a master’s degree. You want to make sure you leave a positive and lasting impression on the admissions committee — some of them may end up being your professors once you’re accepted.
Applications can vary depending on the school and program, so be sure to track each school’s requirements and timeline. Don’t let application deadlines catch you off guard. Review the list of required documents, secure your letters of recommendation early, and don’t wait until the last minute to submit your materials.
To make the application process as smooth as possible, consider applying early. Submitting an early application decreases the likelihood that you will hit any snags that might set you back or impact your chances of being accepted.
Pro-Tip: Our admissions professionals have covered everything you need to know about how to write a statement of purpose for graduate school in this article!
Start Achieving Your Goals at Sacred Heart University
Earning a graduate degree is a major achievement, and at Sacred Heart University, we are committed to helping you every step of the way. Our students, faculty, and staff are eager to answer your questions and assist you through the process of applying and thriving in your graduate program.
If you would like to read stories from current and former students, along with tips for success, be sure to explore our graduate blog — The Pioneer Pursuit. When you’re ready to reach out and request more information, our admissions team would love to help guide you along your journey to graduate school.