During the last 12 months alone admissions to graduate school has increased by nearly 20% according to financial aid reports released by the federal government. The debate on whether graduate school is worth the investment is as hot a topic as ever with the number of people going back to school with the hopes of making themselves more employable in a bad economy.
The typical graduate tuition at a private college or university costs between $15,000 – $25,000 where as the tuition as a state school costs $5,000 – $10,000. Financial aid data shows us that the average debt burden for a graduate school student once they are finished with their program ranges from $30,000 – $125,000. That is a staggering amount of money. It’s no wonder the debate has become such as hot topic. One would have to earn a significantly higher wage to make the incurred debt worth taking on.
It is very important to know these figures because it can help you maximize your return on investment (ROI). Of course there is no black or white answer that tells us if graduate school is worth the money because it is an individual outcome. But there are things you can do to help leverage all of the benefits that graduate school offers. Here’s how:
Have clear career goals – Why pursue a master’s degree without knowing what you want to do with it? Research the type of jobs you can land within your own organization and outside of it as well. Also, find out how strong the job market is for the careers your master’s leads to.
Network – Engage in conversations with professors, advisors, current and former students to get the scoop on career paths, job placement rates for graduates, and other pertinent information that will help your analysis.
Research Scholarships and Grant – although it is harder to find free financial aid for graduate degrees, they still exist. Some institutions give large tuition discounts for alumni as well as lower tuition rates based upon entrance exam test scores. Do some digging and speak to the financial aid office.
Check on Internships – graduate school internships at companies virtually guarantee you will get a permanent job at the company. This helps relieve the stress come graduation time. Work closely with you career services department to know when organizations come to campus and do recruiting. If you an online student make sure you are kept abreast of internship postings in your area. Utilize the alumni network and your classmates as well to leverage those relationships.
Live Cheap – Since you are piling on a lot of debt for school, try to minimize costs in the other areas of your life. That may mean downsizing cars, cutting back on dining out, and limiting vacations, but if you can sacrifice now it will pay dividends in the future.