Whether you’re planning on taking an MBA to land a top job at a Fortune 500 company or you want to do a PhD in medicine to keep researching the cure for cancer, you need to consider all your options first. You need to think carefully about your goals and the steps required to achieve them. By working backwards from your goal to where you are at now, you can focus on what it takes to get to the next level and create a plan that will lead you to your dreams. One useful solution is to look at it from an employer’s perspective. Would your employer value your Masters in Sociology, if you’re in a job that doesn’t require a strong understanding of people and societies? It could be an asset in a Market Research related position, but maybe not the best option in a number-crunching data analysis position, even though you picked up the right skills. By understanding at what the marketplaces values, you can boost your career without delaying career growth while you’re stuck in university and end up burdened by student loans.
It is important to not jump into graduate school simply because you’re not sure of what to do next. While graduate studies have helped many people discover their passions and callings, it is not a sorting hat or a magic 8 ball. If you know that you’re going back to university because you’re nostalgic about all-nighters, parties, and professors who were always impressed by your work, you might want to rethink graduate school. If you’re going back because you feel like you need a break from an intense work-life and responsibilities, you might want to reconsider your career. If you’re going to graduate school because you miss academia and enjoy research and teaching, you might want to think about entering academia as a field.
Graduate programs are, of course, a great option if you can see how it will impact your career beneficially. For example, if you are getting an MBA to ease your way up the ranks, that’s great. However, it will have lesser impact earlier on in your career when you don’t have enough experience. Many humanities students head to law school because other professional degrees are too math-intensive or science-focused. This could be a great option for many students who feel like law is the right field for them. But students who are not passionate about it will probably be unable to cope with the intensive work load that comes not just with graduate schools but also jobs that require a post-graduate level of education.
To recap, if you’re considering going to graduate school for a change in career, try applying for other jobs and getting experience first. If you’re going because you feel undervalued at your current job, consider the same--look for a job where your skills will be utilized. If you’re considering going to graduate school to improve your job prospects, really think about the job market and see if there are any fields you haven’t considered, or maybe consider moving abroad to work. If you feel that an advanced degree is necessary in your field, talk to mentors or people who are doing what you want and determine if a degree is crucial to your progress. If you are passionate about the subject want to dedicate your life to it, think about what you’d like to achieve by working in that field, researching it, or increasing awareness of it.
Keep in mind that graduate school comes with a heavy course load and requires a lot of dedication and energy. Imagine reading papers for class, or even writing your graduate thesis. If the thought of it excites you and you are already thinking about reading up on the subject after this article because you are passionate about it, then graduate school is the right choice for you. If you know that this degree will not only benefit your career but also re-ignite your passion for what you’re doing, go for it. Start narrowing down degrees and universities that offer them. Make a list of requirements and deadlines to stay on top of the application process. Just remember, it won’t drastically change you as a person, or your life; it will only make you more knowledgable in that field.
Conclusion: If you don’t have a passion for what you are going to learn in graduate school, don’t go.