Things to consider about pursuing graduate study

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The year 2010 saw women surpass men in advanced degrees for the first time ever. So says the U.S. Census Bureau, which found that among adults 25 and older who earned a master’s degree, 10.6 million were women and 10.5 million were men.

Such statistics illustrate how women are increasingly positioning themselves for career advancement. Though there’s no guarantee that an advanced degree will advance a career, the appeal of an advanced degree and its potential impact on career aspirations is something many women are finding difficult to resist. But there are a few things women should consider before they begin their pursuit of graduate degrees.

Immediate career implications: It’s common to think of the future when weighing the pros and cons of graduate school, but women currently working in their fields should consider the immediate implications of pursuing an advanced degree. Graduate studies require a much bigger commitment than undergraduate studies, and that commitment could negatively impact your current employment.

Though it’s possible to attend graduate school part time, some programs insist students attend full time, which might make it impossible to maintain your current employment and attend graduate school at the same time. Consider the immediate ramifications of attending graduate school, and decide if those consequences are worth the effort.

Finances: Pursuing an advanced degree is considerably more expensive than pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Women should examine their finances and decide if they are willing to take on student loans or pay for graduate school from their own savings. If you decide that taking out loans is worth it, it helps to know that many programs only offer financial aid to full-time students. If you don’t plan to attend graduate school full time, you might need to find other ways to finance your education.

In addition to the cost of attending graduate school, also consider the impact such a decision will have on your earning potential, especially if you will be paying out-of-pocket. Established professionals already earning good salaries might find the cost of an advanced degree and its possible effect on future earnings doesn’t add up. However, younger college grads whose careers haven’t taken off or even begun might earn considerably more money if they earn advanced degrees.

Need: Some people pursue a graduate degree because it’s necessary in order for them to advance their careers. Others do so because of external factors, such as a poor economy, that are making it difficult for them to gain entry into their desired fields. Before going forward with your pursuit of a graduate degree, research your field to see if such a degree is truly necessary. An advanced degree is desirable in many fields but not necessarily all of them. If your career has been steadily advancing without the help of a graduate degree, then you might not need one after all.

Time: Working parents are typically busy enough without the added burden of attending graduate school. If you have children and need your current salary to support your family, then you might find you don’t have the time to pursue an advanced degree. If you can afford to quit your job, however, graduate school might work, though it will likely require sacrifice on the part of both you and your family.

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