You have finished your undergraduate studies, acquired some working experience,and now you are contemplating the idea of advancing your studies and pursuing a Master’s degree. How do you decide if this is the right path for you? The decision of going back to school is a big one that involves a commitment of time, resources, energy and finances.
Before you arrive at a decision, have an honest conversation with yourself and ask yourself these essential questions:
1. Why are you pursuing a graduate programme?
Always start with the ‘why’ before you make any decision in your life. Take the time to sit down and visualise your thought process by using a journal to jot down your thoughts.
If you are only thinking of graduate school as a means to put off entering the workforce, this option is not going to help you. Once you have graduated, you will find yourself in the same conundrum.
Instead, ask yourself – why do you want to pursue a Master’s programme? Here are some thinking points to guide you along:
- To increase my earning potential
- To learn more
- To provide me with the specialization for a career switch
- To have more credibility in my field
- To have better job opportunities
2. What are your prospects after graduation?
Where do you see yourself after obtaining your Master’s degree? Do you want a specialist degree for a specific career path, or a generalist one that is applicable to a variety of job functions and industries?
If you have already spent some time in the working world and want to improve your prospects with a Master’s degree, then this could be well worth the investment. To attain the best outcome to reach your ultimate goals, you have to know what you hope to achieve with your degree. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your current employer or the undergraduate career office to make sure that this advanced degree will help you get to where you want to go. In fact, most undergraduate programmes have alumni services with career counselling to guide you through the career advantages of a Master’s degree.
3. What is the job market trend?
Before signing your tuition check, analyse the job market to help you make a well-informed decision. Perhaps you have done your research and found a great course that will provide you with the required training to chase your dream career.
However, before you invest your time and money, ensure that there are actual opportunities upon graduation. Check with the school for job placement statistics and find out where the recent graduates were placed. Reach out to professionals with your desired degree and check with them on the prospects they perceive for recent graduates. Go one step further to comb through job portals and look out for the vacancies that are available.
4. What is the return on investment?
Taking a year off your job to head back to school can result in an opportunity cost and a year of lost wages. However, some full-time degrees will eventually pay off in the long run. Determine if the time and money spent on a Master’s degree is worth it by calculating the Return on Investment (ROI).
Step 1: Work out costs of Master’s degree
Write down the expected expenses, such as:
- Relocation expenses if you intend to pursue your studies abroad
- Time off work
- Living expenses, fees, tuition, books and other materials
You can also list down the potential funding sources and any financial aid such as fellowships, scholarships and loans to help you defray the final costs.
Step 2: Consider your earning potential after graduation
According to collegedunia, professionals in Singapore with an MBA degree in Singapore can expect to earn 80,000 to 90,000 USD annually on average.
Of course, the actual salary will be dependent on the industry:
Seedly reveals that the average salary increase pre-MBA to post-MBA can range from 58% to a whopping 148%.
Step 3: Calculate ROI
Deduct your pre-MBA salary from your post-MBA salary. Work out the period needed for you to recoup your investment by dividing the total cost of attending school by the salary difference.
Lastly, weigh all the pros and cons against your final goals. This may help you to make an easier decision than you realised.
5. Do you have enough budget?
According to The Business Times, a Master’s degree comes with an expensive price tag. A full-time cost can set you back by S$62,000 for a one-year programme at Nanyang Technological University to S$68,000 for a 17-month course at National University of Singapore.
On the other hand, part-time courses at Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University will incur an extra S$3,000 and S$2,140 respectively in comparison to a full-time programme. The price remains unchanged for National University of Singapore.
Educational debt may be good debt, but make sure you know what you are in for. Most Master’s degrees will take two years, so remember to budget for the whole programme including the cost of living. Check with your financial advisor if you have any maturing policies to fund your education, or if you would potentially land yourself in more debt. With proper planning, there are many ways to afford graduate school.
Are you ready for further studies?
We hope these questions can help you explore different options and prioritise what matters most to you. Once you have identified the programme that is the best fit for you, make sure you are ready.
On a personal level, determine if the timing is right. On a financial level, be sure you can accommodate this investment. If all is good, review your admissions requirements and tick all the boxes before submitting your application. Opting for graduate school may be a daunting process that requires a lot of information and self-reflection, but it could be rewarding if it helps you meet your goals.