The answer of course is, it depends!
In making your decision, you must consider:
- WHY you want a higher education
- WHAT will be the benefits
- HOW will your life change
- WHO will be affected
- WHERE will you get the money
- WHICH institution should you attend
This article will discuss this decision process from the perspective of an Adjunct Professor who obtained a Masters Degree 10 years after having been in the workforce.
The first thing to consider is WHY you want a higher education – what is driving your decision? There are many reasons: your undergraduate degree doesn’t quite align with your current job, you want to change career paths, or your boss is offering a promotion. The reason has to be personal to you.
Next look at WHAT benefits you will enjoy from having a master’s degree. Consider things like, does your company offer education reimbursement (and what commitment do they want if they are paying), will you get a salary increase or a bonus upon graduation, is it a way to collect continuing maintenance points (CMPs) for your professional certification, will you get that elusive job or promotion?
“It all depends on YOUR drivers!”
Consider HOW your life will change. Not only after you obtain a higher education degree, but during the course of study. This includes considering the hours you will have to work if you get a promotion or added responsibility because of earning the degree. And of course, you have to take into account having to attend class, finish homework and reading assignments, work on projects (maybe with a group), and study for exams. You should count on spending on average two to three hours per week for every hour of class time. That’s 9-hours a week for a 3-credit course.
Look around and see WHO will be affected by your decision, and if you can count on their support. As described above, your life will change. Discuss the options with the important people in your life. Be honest about what the commitment to school will entail, and what support you might need from them. Include your boss in these discussions.
And WHERE will you get the money? The best answer is that your company provides education benefits. That is great, but read the fine print. Many times, company policy requires minimum grades, years of service after graduation, or place limits on the type of classes allowed. There are also traditional financial aid and loan options. The institution you are considering probably has a financial assistance office with resources. If you still have undergrad loans, these may be stayed until graduation. This could be good or bad.
So, you are onboard with seeking a higher degree. Now the question is, in WHICH institution should you pursue it? There are many Universities that offer degree programs geared toward the “non-traditional” student. Non-traditional students include those who are currently in the workforce, are returning to the workforce after having taken some time off (e.g., stay-at-home moms), and retired military personnel utilizing the G.I. bill, among others.
Accommodations for non-traditional students include: night-time classes, on-line classes, and web-based learning platforms (i.e., no need to turn in papers, simply upload them).
Ensure that the institution has the degree you need – science, engineering, policy, studies. And look at the course list to make sure you find them interesting. Also ask if you have to take any additional classes in order to be accepted into the program of choice. For example, do you have to take additional math or chemistry before you start. Consider that many institutions have accelerated programs, so that you can be done in as little as two-years.
There are many benefits to having a higher education, from increased earning potential to enabling a career change. But it is hard, as it takes a lot of time and energy. Determine what drives you personally to pursue a degree and discuss the implications with the important people in your life. Then, if it is a go, find a program that fits your life style.
If you would like more information about an education program that is right for you, please contact us.
More about On-Line Degree Programs
On-line classes seem daunting to an old dog (like me). There is the technology challenge, the required discipline to “attend” class regularly, the perception that it will be boring or impersonal.
However, Universities put a lot of resources into making an on-line class valuable. After all, they need students to take the class to make the whole endeavor lucrative.
Then there are the benefits – you can take class dressed in your pajamas, you don’t have to miss snow days, you can take a class in your hotel room if you travel for work, you can download a pod cast and listen as you travel (or during baby’s naptime). On-line professors offer blogs and other ways to communicate so that your experience is enriching and you can check in with classmates.