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Making a Master's Degree Fit Your Life
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Making a Master's Degree Fit Your Life

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A century ago, a bachelor's degree was a symbol of a superior education. People with bachelor's degrees went on to become CEOs, department presidents and experts in their field. A mere 100 years later, and the bachelor's degree has been replaced by the master's degree. Of course, there is still the PhD, but it's usually reserved for people who want to go heavy into research. So, for your field of work, it's likely the master's degree will do.

It's not that the value of the bachelor's degree has been reduced. It's still a valuable degree. It's just gotten harder to climb the career ladder as more people pursue higher education. In 2019, the percentage of Americans with a college degree was just under 40%.  Compare that to 1940 when fewer than 6% of people obtained a degree. That's a major jump in the number of degrees, which has made for a competitive job market.

If you have a bachelor's degree, it's likely you've entertained the idea of pursuing your master's degree. If you decided to go for it, you would be joining the elite 13% of Americans who have finished graduate school. Here are some tips to help you decide if graduate school is a good fit for you.

1. You Work Full-Time

Many universities take into account that a good percentage of their students have already entered into the workforce. To accommodate working students, they've developed flexible programs that allow students to earn degrees by attending their courses online. In fact, many degrees can be earned completely online.

For example, the Pace University online MBA is designed for students who need the flexibility that can afford them the convenience of not having to travel outside their hometowns to attend classes, and not having to give up time at home, which is where most people want to be after a full day at work. Since online options have increased, many students have been able to make earning a degree work with their careers.

2. You Have a Family

The fact that you have a family to support might be another reason to pursue your graduate degree. Government statistics show the median income for full-time workers with a bachelor's degree in 2017 was $56,000 while workers in the same job with a master's degree had a median income of $68,000. That $12,000 difference can make a huge difference for a family with children. Of course, the difference varies by degree, and degrees in business and technology widen the gap even more.

The drawback to pursuing a degree is the time it takes away from your family. If you're a single parent, the challenge is even greater. Yet, many single parents manage to make it work every year. It is doable, though nobody will tell you it isn't tough.

If you don't have the other parent around to help with your children, ask family and friends. Depending on the age of your children, as long as you are in the same house, they may not even need someone else to provide care to them. If your children are really young, then waiting a few years to return to school is always an option.

3. You Really Enjoy Your Work

For many passionate career-minded individuals, going to work every day is a big part of how they self-identify. They would feel incomplete if they weren't in that career field. If this sounds like you, then a master's program is only going to enhance your experience.

A master's program is an in depth study of your area of expertise. You have the ability to make a larger contribution to your field of work when you have a better understanding of its history of innovations and unique approaches to decision-making. In summary, a master's degree makes you a better worker, and just as the bachelor's degree did before it, it also develops you as an individual.

4. Can You Afford It?

There is no reason why anyone who wants to attend a university should not attend that university. The government has made that possible through student loans and grants. The real question is, can you afford it after you graduate?

If you think of your student loan debt as an investment in your future, then yes, you can afford it. 

You don't have to finance your entire education. If you can pay some of it as you attend, that contribution will add up to be big savings on accrued interest later on. There are also numerous grants available to students and unlike loans, grants never have to be paid back. Grants are available through your university, through individuals and through non-profit organizations. Many grants are career specific.

5. Too Much Time Has Passed 

Many people fear returning to school because so much time has lapsed since they earned their bachelor's degree. They don't realize that it doesn't really matter that time has lapsed. Those math classes aren't coming back, unless you're studying to be an accountant, statistician, astronomer or mathematician. If that's the case, then you really have nothing to fear.

6. Your Bachelor's Degree Was in Another Field of Study

Having a bachelor's degree, no matter what the area of study, is often all that's required to fill a position within a company. If you've found yourself in a career that doesn't correlate to your degree, you're in the company of millions of other Americans. It's also common that the master's degree a person earns doesn't even tie back to their bachelor's degree. If your undergraduate major was art, it's very possible you could still go on to earn a graduate degree in business or counseling.

Each university sets its own admission requirements. If you really love the field you've found yourself in and want to switch areas of study, there's almost always a way to make it happen.

If you've been contemplating returning to higher education to pursue your graduate degree, there really isn't much that can stand in your way. All you need is passion, ambition and a space for studying.

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