Benefits & Costs
Depending on the field of study, your graduate degree can be another significant “investment” in your education. The first step of your planning should be to consider the costs, the benefits and the potential return on investment (ROI).
Give due diligence to considering your motivation to pursue a degree. Motivations range broadly with objectives including:
Increased depth of knowledge in your field
Meet requirement for entry-level positions to realize career goals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) a Master’s is required for occupations like Economist or Mental Health Counselor, and a PhD of course is required to become a physician
Increased marketability or job stability
Advance in salary and/or rank in your chosen field
The costs of a graduate degree include money—and time!
The time amount and value varies widely by individual, but the ranges include:
Entrance test exam time: 1-3 months of prep and test completion
Program completion time: 1-7 years depending on program and whether attendance is full or part-time
The cost varies widely as well, but you should consider testing, tuition and cost of living:
Entrance test exam prep: $99 - $1,299
Tuition and cost of living includes can run anywhere from $20K to as high as $300K depending on the program and its length. When estimating this amount for your scenario, you should also consider costs like healthcare insurance as appropriate
RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)
Data on the value of attending graduate school is available from a number of resources. According to a 2015 update from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Those with a master’s degree had an unemployment rate of 2.4% (even lower for professional degrees and PhDs), compared to the national average of 4.3%.”
Consider: what's your desired role after completing your graduate degree? What is the median income for people working in this specific role, or the field at large? Use the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to gather this information.
Take the time to jot down your “benefits” or pros, “costs” or cons and review those factors in light of current job market conditions and other factors that drive your motivation and calculate your projected ROI. If the math works for you, read on!