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4 Things to Consider Before Pursuing an Advanced Degree

Career coach details key issues to ensure you make the right decision

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In a 5-part series “Grad School vs. School of Life,” BlackEnterprise.com explores the pros and cons of pursuing an advanced degree in lieu of the job market. Job seekers, professionals and career experts weigh in to help you decide whether the decision is a good one in the grand scheme of ultimate career advancement and marketability.

With 38% of current college students older than 25, the phrase “back to school” doesn’t just apply to 18-year-olds anymore. If you’ve been out of the academic game for a while, returning to school is a huge decision that requires careful planning. If you’re already in the job force but considering continuing your education, there are many things to think about in terms of the value and feasibility. Before you start dusting off your book bag, Wanda Kiser, career coach and president of Elite Resume Writing Inc., gives us four questions to ask ourselves:

Why do I want to go back to school?

Kiser: A full-time employee should determine whether going back to school is a personal goal or professional goal. If this is a professional goal, one should consider how it will enhance their career. Will it enhance their current profession or position them for promotion? Will the training assist in securing a new role in a different industry? Also, will attending school interfere with work productivity or hours? Managers and teams will expect students to maintain their performance and pull their load. Certainly, this is not a decision that can be taken lightly, so one should be absolutely certain that they are willing to hang in there and do the work when things get rough.

Can I afford it?

Kiser: Prospective students should count the cost before deciding to go back to school, comparing programs along with effectiveness. Also, employees should find out if their employer will pay (or reimburse them) for the training or some part of it. Along with that, they will also need to find out if the employer will expect for them to hang around for a period after training is completed. This may be a determining factor in whether they will accept funding from their employer. Further, research should be conducted to find out if grants are an option. Other costs to consider include supplies, activity fees, books (which can be very expensive) and other miscellaneous items.

Will it fit into my lifestyle?

Kiser: Prospective students should evaluate their lifestyle. Is this the right time go back to school? Are young children, spouse/partner, aging parents, or pets in the home? How will you as the student continue to care for them and work, go to school, and complete homework assignments? Family members will need to understand your absence from their activities, like football, basketball, dance, etc. Timing is important before making a decision like this, because support is crucial to achieving success in all areas, including the home, work and school.

Have I considered alternatives?

Kiser: Today there are many options to consider with regard to training and education, like online courses, webinars, weekend intensive training programs and home-study programs. Further, if only a portion of a degree program is desired, then perhaps a certification program will suffice. Various community colleges offer enrichment training programs, so this may be an option as well. I would also suggest speaking with a career coach or career college counselor to discuss options and to assist in developing a workable plan.

Check out the rest of the “Grad School vs. School of Life” series:

Part Two: 4 Worst Excuses for Pursuing an Advanced Degree

Part Three: 4 Good Reasons You Should Pursue an Advanced Degree

Part Four: How to Balance Full-Time Work with Graduate School

Part Five: It Is Worth It to Skip Grad School for the Job Market?

What did you consider before continuing on to graduate school? #SoundOff and follow Jamie on Twitter @JayNHarrison.