Sunday, January 20, 2008

6 Ways Going Back to School Can Pay Off

Going back to school for a graduate degree can increase your earning power and provide other professional bonuses. In this article (Six Reasons to Return to School in ’08,) writer Vicki Salem outlines why a degree represents a good investment.

A few months ago, I enrolled in a master's program for personal and professional reasons. During informal chats with fellow students, I realized that many of my peers had similar objectives. Here are the six reasons outlined in the article, with my own observations tossed in.

1. New Job; New Career Direction: Many of the fastest-growing careers, require a bachelor's degree or higher. For example, my goal of teaching on a college level requires at least a master's degree.

2. Salary upgrade: Many pay scales are linked to education. Getting a higher degree can lead to a higher paycheck.

3. Better marketability: In a competitive job market, an advanced degree can provide an edge.

4. Personal goals: A few of my classmates enrolled in our master's program just for "personal fulfillment." And honestly, even if I don't go on to teach on a college level, earning a graduate degree still represents one of my personal goals.

5. Networking: The academic community provides an excellent setting for networking, with well-connected experts in different fields. In the writing business, for example, many writing instructors have contacts with editors, publishers and agents. Professors are also excellent mentors and a valuable source of job leads and insights. Classmates are also a bonus.

6. Personal investment: I loved this quote from the article:

"Education is an investment that always pays you back," assures Dr. Susan Aldridge, president of University Maryland University College. "Housing prices may decline and stocks may plummet but an education lasts a lifetime -- bolstering your earning potential, enriching your intellectual life, and paying big dividends in personal satisfaction.”

My other reasons for returning to school:

1. Feedback: I've been working on a short-story collection and I submitted short stories to fulfill some of my class assignments. Getting feedback from instructors provided valuable insights about my work and material.

2. New information: While fulfilling class reading and research assignments, I acquired information, data and insights that were helpful with my assorted creative writing projects. Not only did I enjoy the formal lectures, but I also valued the comments and discussion offered by classmates.

3. New contacts. It wasn't just about career networking. Enrolling in a graduate program helped me to make new friends and to chat with a wide range of professionals that I would never have met otherwise. We all had different backgrounds, but a common interest in a liberal arts education.

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