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When Is the Right Time to Go to Graduate School?

Your career seems like it’s at a standstill. A friend has suggested graduate school, and you’re starting to think about it seriously. You know there are benefits – new skills and knowledge, a boost to your resume, a path to the CPA exam, networking opportunities – but still…

How long is it going to take to earn a master’s degree? Can you really do this now — with your family, your job and a life that’s already busy?

And will it make a difference? Will you get a big enough pay increase with your new degree to make it worthwhile? Will your boss or future employers really pay attention to the new degree?

» Take a short nine-question quiz to figure out if you’re ready for grad school.

Graduate School Student
Online student and Bank Treasurer Leanne Fredericks shares why she returned to school to pursue her Master of Accounting degree.

Let’s look a little closer at a few of these issues.

Fitting it in

While some graduate programs – like law school – can require three years (or even longer), others require only a year or two to complete. And depending on what degree and what school you choose, you may not have to quit your job.

Universities now offer more flexibility with online courses, part-time degree programs and distance learning. Some degree programs allow you to slow it down or hit pause for a few months if your life gets too busy.

Calculating the ROI

Once you decide you can handle the time commitment of graduate school, consider the financial commitment – and the return on that investment.

Many master’s programs offer fellowships — think of them as the grad school equivalent of scholarships — and will help you find other financial aid. Some employers will pay for all or part of graduate school, especially if it makes you a more valuable, skilled employee.

More important than the cost of a degree is the return you’ll get on your investment in tuition and time. Your choice of degree matters a lot. A Master of Accounting degree, for example, provides in-demand skills can easily pay for itself in just a few years.

Researchers from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce have found that workers with a graduate degree in their field earn an average of 38.3 percent more than those with a bachelor’s degree in the same field.

Considering career choices

Finally, keep in mind why you’re considering graduate school. A graduate degree can accelerate the career you already have and push you up the corporate ladder, or it can even lead you into a new field.

Degrees that offer concrete business skills, such as a Master of Accounting degree, are a good example. Understanding the financial ins-and- outs of your company makes you a more valuable employee.

Maybe you majored in accounting but have plateaued. A master’s degree could prepare you for the CPA exam, while at the same time providing you with ample opportunities for networking or even recruiting with firms and other companies.

Or maybe you’re thinking about switching careers. A Master of Accounting degree gives you the tools to fully understand the finances of any organization.

One more factor to consider: Where you get your degree matters. The stronger the reputation of the school you choose, the more credible your degree and new skills will be.

Think you might be ready for graduate school?

The University of North Carolina offers a free assessment tool to help you decide. It’s a short, nine-question, multiple-choice quiz that connects your life – and your career – to the jump into a graduate degree program. It’s very useful (and a little fun, too).

What’s your next career move? Consider the #1-ranked online Master of Accounting degree from the University of North Carolina. With flexible schedules, evening courses delivered by world-class faculty, and a career services team dedicated to the needs of working professionals, the program can give your career the boost it needs.