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Making the Leap: Key Considerations for Going Back to School After Working

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

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Two young professional men at work having a conversation.
Young professionals working.

As an academic career coach, I often engage with early-career professionals grappling with a pivotal decision: to persist in their current career trajectory or contemplate going back to school for advanced education. This is not a straightforward decision—it requires introspection, clarity on career objectives, and a willingness to commit substantial time, effort, and frequently, finances towards shaping your future.

If you're at this juncture, here are some fundamental considerations to aid your decision-making process:

What's driving your decision to return to school?

Understanding your motivations is critical. Are you craving more challenges or intellectual stimulation? Do you feel constrained in your career growth without a higher degree? Are you passionate about a specific field and yearn to deepen your knowledge? Articulating why you wish to go back to school can provide valuable insights into whether this is the right choice for you.

How do your long-term career aspirations align with further education?

Self-reflection is very important. Reflect on where you envision yourself in the next 5-10 years. Is a graduate degree instrumental in achieving this vision? Certain roles or sectors necessitate an advanced degree, while others prioritize experience over formal education. Conduct thorough research on your desired field and roles to discern the educational prerequisites.

What skills and knowledge do you anticipate acquiring?

Graduate programs offer specialized knowledge and skillsets. Identify whether there are specific competencies you aim to develop or areas of expertise you wish to deepen that could augment your career trajectory.

Can you manage the time and financial commitment?

Further education is a significant investment of time and resources. Assess whether you can support yourself throughout the program's duration and are prepared to juggle academic responsibilities with personal life commitments.

Have you explored all alternatives?

Prior to leaping, contemplate other pathways to reach your career objectives. Could a job change, professional development courses, or certifications offer the skills or experiences you seek? These may provide more cost-effective and time-efficient routes to your desired career path.

What is the potential return on investment?

Consider the possible benefits of investing in a graduate program. Would this degree significantly enhance your earning potential or unlock opportunities otherwise inaccessible?

Adaptability: Embracing Change in Your Career Path

The decision to return to school is deeply personal and contingent upon your individual circumstances, career ambitions, and passions. There's no universally correct choice, only the choice that aligns best with your aspirations. If you're considering this transition, reflect on these questions, and consider seeking advice from mentors, career coaches, or professionals in your targeted field. The process of decision-making is a journey, and it's perfectly fine to take your time to ensure you're making the most suitable choice for your future. It is also beneficial to regularly revisit and revise your goals, ensuring they align with your current reality.

Book Recommendations

As we conclude this discussion, I'd like to leave you with some further reading that can enhance your understanding and broaden your perspective on this topic. These selected books offer valuable insights and may serve as useful companions on your journey.

Hi! I'm Dr. Marina Silva-Opps. If you're hungry for more insights on academic career success, career reinvention, time management, productivity, and personal development, visit my LinkedIn profile and website, where you can explore a wealth of additional content. And remember, I'm here to help!


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