For a working professional on the fence about their career path or a recent college grad, is going to grad school a wise “default” plan? People ask me this question all the time. And with the cost of higher education rising rapidly and many recent articles in the media about the value of higher education, these days, you need to think long and hard about it. Do not just jump into a higher degree because you are lost and do not know what else to do. Grad school can buy you time, but it is not the best option to figuring out your direction. You need to take the time beforehand to define your career path, then attend school if that is a critical component to making that dream job a reality.
Grad school is expensive. You are paying for the courses obviously but also the cost of living. If you are not working or working less in order to attend, it is an expensive way to either buy time figuring out what you want to do long term and an expensive way to learn about a new industry. There are lower investment ways to do both of those things (online courses, informational interviews, community college classes). I advise clients to know their direction first before deciding on a long term commitment for education (as opposed to a one time course where you can get your feet wet with low cost and risk by the way!). And, I tell them to fully understand and plan for how the degree will help them advance their career or assist them in changing their career path. Talk to your boss or mentor about this; whether the degree is necessary. Review the LinkedIn profiles of other professionals in your field-do they all have the same degree? This will help you decide whether you need to take the plunge.
Do not get me wrong, I have a master’s degree and as a career coach I fully value higher education for many reasons. But I think people need to think through the decision to attend grad school based on the time spent as well as the financial investment. It all depends on your situation and career goals. You need to think about the value of that higher degree and how it will help you attain your goals. Some industries or jobs don’t require them. For your career path it may make more sense to get a certification or professional degree instead. It is all about knowing why you’re doing it and making sure it is going to be worth the investment.
You can instead take courses to learn more about the possible career path you are considering, online or otherwise. Conduct informational interviews to learn more about industries and whether they are a fit. I would prefer people spend the time and money identifying their direction before school, then if school is the best option because it will give them entry into an industry they would not have otherwise, then great, go that route. But identify your direction first. Or, be very clear about how your degree will give you that needed leg up in your industry. I hope this is helpful to you!