Education that is…
There’s no doubt about it, postgraduate education can be expensive and it is also a large investment of time and emotion as well. This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, so to avoid unnecessary stress, debt and heartache you should ask yourself a few questions first. And be sure to answer them honestly as possible.
What is your goal? To get a better job, to move in to a different field, to add a credential to your resume, to increase earning potential?
Does your course help you achieve your goal? If it doesn’t then that’s an awful lot of time, money and stress to commit to with no real benefit.
Do you need the contacts you would make during it? For most people studying an MBA it is definitely more about the contacts you make whilst completing the course; therefore contact hours, group work and networking functions will play a huge part in your university experience. But if you’re considering completing a coursework masters on a technical subject then you may not require so much face to face time.
What is interesting to you? This is an obvious question that is often forgotten. If the subject you’re studying interests you then you’re more likely to study and more likely to succeed in a job in that field.
Will it add to your current qualifications? Or is the coursework either covering material that you’ve learnt already on the job, or material that you see no use for in the next 5 to 10 years?
Will your qualifications be transferable or are they recognised by your professional body? This is an important as otherwise it’s a lot of pain for nothing!
Will a better university mean a better course and therefore a better job? We’re often sold the benefits of an MBA from a top American business school (being part of a global network, networking opportunities, large post-grad salaries to name a few) but we need to remember these schools are run as businesses and not in our best interests. You should instead pay attention to course content, staff and the university’s industry links.
How is it delivered? This was a big one for me as I travel a fair bit for work so cannot attend an evening course on a regular basis and definitely can’t agree to an exam date 6 months in advance. Or are you willing to quit your job and study full time for 12 months to get it over and done with, in the hope of a great job at the end? Your options are full time, part time (on campus) and distance learning, and your current work roster, lifestyle and commitments will answer this one for you.
How much will it really cost you? As with all major investments, you should calculate your return on investment, considering the following:
- Salary before entering grad program
- Duration of grad program
- Cost of tuition
- Cost of education / lack of income
- Cost of living
- Salary after graduation
In what geographic region do I want to study? Given the global engineering market and transferable skills, qualifications from different regions suggest a willingness to travel, learn and move within large organisations.
It’s the first step on an exciting journey, so don’t let this scare you off. This in no way an exhaustive list, what would you consider important when making a commitment such as this?