Is Going Back To School Worth It?: 5 Tips For Success

Most professionals are contemplating a crucial question: “Should I go back to school?”

Perhaps you’re considering a career change due to burnout, or maybe you feel you’re underpaid and overworked. Whatever your reasons are, going back to school to pursue an advanced degree can offer numerous benefits.

However, it’s crucial to consider several factors before going back to school.

What to Consider Before Going Back To School

Return on Investment

Cost is an important factor to consider before pursuing additional education. Investigate the program’s tuition, additional fees, books, and any potential loss of income if you plan to enroll full-time. You can also research scholarships, grants, and financial aid options to mitigate these costs.

Additionally, evaluating the return on investment (ROI) of advanced education can help you determine if you should return to school. The best way to do this is by assessing the potential increase in earnings with an additional degree against the cost of the program. To solidify your decision, make sure industry trends show a consistent increase in wages for those with advanced degrees.

Work-life Balance

Once you’ve determined the ROI of returning to school, it’s also important to consider whether your personal and professional commitments could prevent you from enrolling. For example, if you have a demanding home life, you might be worried about balancing your studies with work on top of any personal commitments. In the past, this has been a common obstacle for professionals to enroll in full-time, in-person programs.

However, with options like part-time study and online courses, you can get the flexibility you need to confidently go back to school. If you’re still worried about time management though, you should proactively develop strategies for stress management before juggling these commitments.

Long-Term Career Advantages

As you begin to feel more confident about the financial and time commitment of returning to school, you’ll also need to evaluate how an advanced degree will affect your career trajectory. Not all roles require a specific degree for advancement, but many greatly benefit from new skills and knowledge developed in an academic setting.

Researching the following data from industry reports is a good place to start:

  • Skills
  • Qualifications
  • Job Demand

You should also consider monitoring professional associations to gauge how your field is evolving—specifically in regard to the demand for advanced degrees.

5 Tips for Adults Thinking About Going Back To School

If you’re confident about going back to school but feel unsure of whether you’re ready to take this big step, consider the advice of Dee Masiello, a former assistant dean of academic and faculty affairs at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies. With more than 20 years of experience working in graduate business and leadership programs designed for working professionals, she knows what it takes for working professionals to be successful when going back to school.

Here are five tips she has for adult learners who are unsure if they can fit going back to school into their already jam-packed lives:

1. Create a Support Network

Heading back to school to finish or pursue a degree will change how you spend your time and what activities you can commit to. Therefore, it’s important to garner support from the most important people in your life who will be affected by this life choice.

“Take the time to talk with everyone who’s important in your life to work out a plan and set expectations,” says Masiello. “Their lives will be impacted by this decision too, so give them a chance to voice concerns and set some guidelines—but also to get excited with you about the journey you’re about to undertake.”

2. Be Patient

Obtaining a master’s or doctoral degree may not raise your salary immediately, but over time you’re likely to see a financial return on your investment in education. Therefore, it’s very important to remain patient in your career advancement.

“You may not see an immediate return,” says Masiello. “But it will come—and in more ways than you can imagine.”

For example, students can benefit from learning new skills, networking, and getting on a fresh career trajectory.

3. Build on Your Strengths

Many working professionals are reluctant to head back to school because, as experts in their field, they feel that becoming a student again might expose what they don’t know. But Masiello looks at this quite differently:

“Going back to school will actually build on your strengths,” she says. “The classroom is a safe environment to challenge what you think you know and build confidence. Remember: making mistakes and learning from them is still acceptable as an adult.”

4. Embrace Online Learning

Masiello encourages adults considering a degree to try online classes, a learning format that may not have been available when they first went to school.

“I often hear that working adults are reluctant to try online classes,” says Masiello. “But they allow a lot of flexibility for those juggling a career and family since they let working professionals do coursework when it’s convenient for them. They also provide opportunities to interact with and learn from classmates from all over the world.”

5. Enjoy the Journey

Going back to school can be a big commitment and financial investment, but along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with professors who have real-world industry knowledge that will provide valuable insight to you in your day- job. Your classmates might be working in a position similar to yours and have advice about and solutions to challenges you encounter in your industry. Plus you’ll learn new skills and become an expert in topics that you weren’t as knowledgeable in when you began the program.

“Getting an advanced degree will set the stage for your professional advancement,” says Masiello, “but it’s also a great adventure. Find ways to enjoy it every step of the way.”

Get Started on Your Journey Back to School

Whether you’re looking to advance your career in your current field, or make a career change, a graduate advanced degree will provide you with the skills and experience necessary to take your career to the next level.

Northeastern University’s many graduate programs are designed to give students the practical knowledge, real-world experience, and networking opportunities necessary for success. Explore Northeastern’s graduate programs to learn more.

If you’re considering going to grad school, be sure to check out more articles on our grad school tips and advice page for helpful information throughout the application process.