But when it comes down to your personal decisions, statistics don’t mean much. It’s great if most people with advanced degrees earn more money. If you’re the one starving and overqualified, though, that information won’t buy you dinner.
You’ve probably heard the stories. You don’t have to go any further than the nearest Google search to find stories of people who are down and out with their diplomas. Or to find articles discouraging you from getting that Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D.
So is that degree worth it? It depends. What are you hoping to get from it? What’s it going to cost you? What are you studying (results vary by major)? What are your long-term goals?
If you’re hoping for personal enrichment, I don’t think college will disappoint you (though it may disillusion you from time to time). If you’re hoping to get a better job or a higher income, you just might get what you’re hoping for. Or you might not. If your particular field requires a certain degree to qualify for a certain position, and you want that position, the answer might seem obvious.
I am thinking about these decisions myself as I consider becoming a work/life consultant. Will people take me seriously if I don’t have an MBA? Would an MBA even be relevant to what I want to do or would I have to sit through endless economics classes that don’t match my plans? Could an MBA open up opportunities I haven’t even thought of yet? Is it possible for me to get the benefits of an MBA without the actual degree?
One thing’s for sure—education is not a simple solution that will make all your dreams fall into your lap. Often it’s worthwhile, but you can’t assume that one size fits all. Only you can figure out how much education you want to get and whether or not it will pay off for you. You have to do your homework. I don’t think most of us think this practically (and by most of us, I mean that I sure didn’t).
You have to find the information about how many of the graduates in your program find jobs, how quickly they do so, and how much they’re paid. You have to ask about financial aid and teaching assistantships and scholarships for non-traditional students. You have to talk to recent graduates to ask them what they loved and hated about their time in school, and how useful their education has been on the job.
I wish there were a central location to find all this information; unfortunately, there isn’t. But the internet makes it easier, as do rankings of colleges and universities. Here’s a tip: if the information is easy to find, that’s good news. The university in question is proud of its job placement rate or its diversity, or at least it wants to be transparent enough that students can make informed decisions.
It can be a lot of work to track down this information. But, considering that you’re investing thousands of dollars and hours, it’s worth it to do your research so you don’t find yourself hugging your diploma in the unemployment line.