If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you may be thinking about going back to school to get a master’s degree. But before you do so, you ought to ask yourself the following questions:


What will a master’s degree really do for you?

If you are an American history buff, and would like to learn more about the subject, you can go back to school and get a master’s degree, or you can read on your own and derive many of the same benefits. That is something to think about – will the degree do something for you that you cannot do on your own? In the case of an MBA, or a Master’s in Business Administration, you can learn many of the things by the school of hard knocks in working in the world, but there are other things that you may only be able to learn via the program.

What is the cost-benefit analysis of the degree?

Using our above-referenced examples, spending, say, $60,000 on a history degree just to learn more on the subject may not be a luxury you can afford unless you are independently wealthy. On the other hand, if you will not be able to move up further in your career without an MBA, investing $60,000 in the degree, particularly if you can get a scholarship or help from your present employer in paying for it, could reap numerous benefits for your career.

Is this a degree you really want, or is it just something to do because you are unemployed?

Many people end up in graduate school because they are having a hard time finding a job, whether it be just after college, or in their 40s or 50s, after a job layoff. So it is important, if you are in this situation, that you ask yourself that if you were able to find a job tomorrow, would you still want the degree? And is going back to school just a way of biding time, instead of being unemployed?

How difficult will it be to pay back the loan?

If you are 50 years old, how long will it take you to pay back the loan, if you have to take out one to pay for it? How about if you are 25, and don’t expect to make much money, even after getting a master’s degree? Some people act as if talking about some financial concerns is crass, but it is important to really think about how you will be able to pay for the loan, especially given that you may be on the hook for the rest of your life for it; must student loans are not dischargable, even in bankruptcy.

Have you talked with an expert in career coaching about it?

Before you commit to going to graduate school, why not talk to an expert in career coaching about what should do next? Getting a master’s degree could be right for you, or it might not be, but you should ask others about it. To find a professional in career coaching, click here.

Lisa Swan can be reached on Twitter at @lisa_swan.