Going Back-to-School: Should I Get That Graduate Degree?

graduate degree

Back-to-school is in the air, so let’s stay with last week’s theme of education.  Many people struggle mid-career with the question of whether to further their education.  They may be asking, “Am I being held back for my lack of a Masters’ degree?” or, “Would having a PhD under my belt make me more in-demand?”


Perhaps it’s not a question of whether you will earn more, but one of having more knowledge or the experience of being in academia again.


My thoughts?

Oh, let’s face it, as a financial adviser, I think you should know what the return on investment is before committing time and money to an advanced degree.  After all, going back to school when you have a job and mortgage and kids is not going to be nearly as fun as your kegger-fueled days at Daddy-Paid-For-It State University.


Here are some statistics from the US Census Bureau (okay, it’s a little old, but you get the idea) on how much extra earnings you might get in different careers for a graduate degree:


How to use this data?

Consider the average Master’s degree costs about $30,000/year in tuition at a public university and takes 2 years to complete.  How many years of extra earnings will it take to cover that $60,000 tuition bill?


At a 101% earnings premium over $50,000 median wage in Biology, you’ll earn an extra $50,000/year in earnings.  It won’t take long to see the benefit of that $60,000 tuition bill.  However, a Master’s in art will give you an average annual boost of $10,000/year, or 6 years to recoup the cost of tuition.


Of course, it’s not all about money – even I realize that!  Kind of.  However, being realistic about costs and benefits has never hurt a decision process.

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