How to Know When the Time is Right to Get a Master’s Degree

Deciding whether to go back to school for a master’s degree is a major decision because it involves postponing career plans, putting your life on hold, forfeiting a stable income during the time you are in school, and taking the risk that you will find employment after you graduate. When a decision to return to…
Advertising Disclosure.

Advertiser Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone. This article may contain links from our advertisers. For more information, please see our Advertising Policy.

default image

Deciding whether to go back to school for a master’s degree is a major decision because it involves postponing career plans, putting your life on hold, forfeiting a stable income during the time you are in school, and taking the risk that you will find employment after you graduate. When a decision to return to school is imminent, it is important to think about a variety of factors.

Will a graduate degree help you advance your career?

First, consider whether or not a graduate degree will help advance your career and if you are doing it for the right reasons. While certain careers definitely require an advanced degree such as becoming a doctor or a lawyer, there are many other jobs for which an undergraduate degree can suffice. Provided you put in the time and effort, one can climb their way up the “corporate ladder.” Graduate school is not the place to go if you are escaping a job in which you are unhappy.  If this is the case, it is prudent to explore other options such as looking for another position within your company or signing up for additional training, either in-house or through outside professional development programs.

A Master’s Degree is an Investment of Time and Money

Second, it is important to remember that graduate school is an investment of time and money. Not only is it likely that you will be giving up a salary to return to school, but you will also have to foot the bill for attending. Annual tuition for master’s degree programs in the United States ranges anywhere from $5,000 to more than $38,000 a year. Although expensive, one has to weigh the cost of graduate school against the potential for a higher salary following completion. According to a 2008 U.S. Census Bureau survey of people 25 years old and over, the median income for a bachelor’s degree holder was $55,656 while someone with a master’s degree, had a median income $67,337, an increase of 21%. Additionally, as more and more high school graduates attend college, the bachelor’s degree is becoming a commodity.  Those with graduate degrees are significantly more marketable than those with only bachelor degrees.

Do you have enough experience to go for a Master’s Degree?

Another crucial factor to consider is whether or not your professional experience has been substantive enough to return to school. Although it might be easier returning to school immediately after receiving a bachelor’s degree with a “student” mentality, working for at least a few years is recommended. During this time you can hone in on what type of work you enjoy and better know your career goals. Additionally, most graduate school programs require some work experience. Working for a few years will gives one time to save money and also allows one to mature, therefore, making the graduate school experience entirely different than college.

Choosing the right graduate program

Once the decision has been made to return, it isn’t as simple as matriculating at the first school that accepts you. The decision of where to go to school is huge. In fact, some experts say that your choice of a graduate school is much more important than your choice of an undergraduate school. Certain schools are better known for certain graduate programs. For instance, Harvard and Northwestern are known for their business programs, while Vanderbilt University (Peabody School) is known for its education program, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for its engineering program. Make sure to do your research and ensure you attend a program that will give you maximum exposure to your chosen field in terms of faculty, classes, networking opportunities, and classmates.  You may even want to consider some of the best online colleges, as they can provide serious discounts. You should also consider searching the best GI Bill Schools to see if you can use your GI Bill benefits.

Whether returning to school is the right choice depends largely on your specific circumstances and career goals. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly so spend the time to weigh the pros and cons.

About the author. This post comes from Michael, chief editor of, helping consumers find the best credit card offers.

Get Instant Access
FREE Weekly Updates! Enter your information to join our mailing list.

Posted In:

About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is The Military Wallet's founder. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over six years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the Illinois Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes,, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

Reader Interactions


    Leave A Comment:


    About the comments on this site:

    These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  1. Romeo says

    In the case of your audience, military members, there are so many opportunities to go to graduate school tuition free (includes the use of TA). For example, TUI in California pretty much pays folks for going to their school. I believe for military folk the most important thing is just acquiring the degree, which is looked at heavily for advancement. Now, if the point is to use the degree outside of the military, then accreditation becomes important. In my case, I choose Webster University, which has many remote locations located near military installations and is relatively inexpensive.

The Military Wallet is a property of Three Creeks Media. Neither The Military Wallet nor Three Creeks Media are associated with or endorsed by the U.S. Departments of Defense or Veterans Affairs. The content on The Military Wallet is produced by Three Creeks Media, its partners, affiliates and contractors, any opinions or statements on The Military Wallet should not be attributed to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the Dept. of Defense or any governmental entity. If you have questions about Veteran programs offered through or by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, please visit their website at The content offered on The Military Wallet is for general informational purposes only and may not be relevant to any consumer’s specific situation, this content should not be construed as legal or financial advice. If you have questions of a specific nature consider consulting a financial professional, accountant or attorney to discuss. References to third-party products, rates and offers may change without notice.

Advertising Notice: The Military Wallet and Three Creeks Media, its parent and affiliate companies, may receive compensation through advertising placements on The Military Wallet; For any rankings or lists on this site, The Military Wallet may receive compensation from the companies being ranked and this compensation may affect how, where and in what order products and companies appear in the rankings and lists. If a ranking or list has a company noted to be a “partner” the indicated company is a corporate affiliate of The Military Wallet. No tables, rankings or lists are fully comprehensive and do not include all companies or available products.

Editorial Disclosure: Editorial content on The Military Wallet may include opinions. Any opinions are those of the author alone, and not those of an advertiser to the site nor of  The Military Wallet.