So you’re considering the graduate school adventure. Maybe you want to shift focus in your career or you’ve hit a ceiling at work too low for your liking. Maybe you’ve discovered a passion that’s beckoning you to learn more, reach higher, and strive harder. Maybe the recent pandemic has slowed you down professionally and you feel the time is right to surge forward when the world starts spinning at its normal pace again.
Reasons to move ahead with your education are numerous. However, nobody can deny it’s a serious decision, as graduate school represents a significant time and monetary investment. Therefore, you need to ask yourself: is earning a graduate degree worth that investment? Are you ready to take on this new responsibility?
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Perhaps most importantly, you need to ask yourself if that advanced degree will meet your needs. How do you differentiate between what you want and what you need? And does the difference matter?
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To help explore these questions in greater depth, we’ll look at renowned developmental psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which describes the levels at which the things we want become needs after other basic needs are met.
With that in mind, here are 10 good reasons to go to grad school that will help you meet your needs on every level, from physiological to self-actualization.
The physiological category of needs addresses basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter. While you probably already have these needs met, you may feel like you’d like to improve your ability to meet them. Going back to graduate school can help you do so by upgrading your earning potential, positioning you for advancement in your current career, or enabling you to change your career to something more fulfilling.
1. Upgrade Your Earning Potential
The Social Security Administration has found that people with master’s degrees earn $1.1 to $1.5 million more in median lifetime earnings than people with bachelor’s degrees.
What that shows is employers are willing to pay more for your services when they see you’ve put the time, energy, and effort into becoming an expert in your field. The accomplishment of an advanced degree also shows an initiative, ambition, and work ethic employers value and see as a meaningful opportunity.
2. Position Yourself for a Promotion/Raise
Along the same lines, earning your degree could be the move that positions you for a promotion or a raise in your current career or with your present organization. Some industries even have provisions to increase pay for employees who further their education. For instance, the base salary for secondary teachers in Florida with a bachelor’s degree is $39,670 annually. With a master’s degree, for the same job, a teacher can make up to $59,050, depending on years of experience.
Additionally, companies often require their senior managers and those in C-suite positions to have an advanced degree. If you have your eye on a prize position within your organization, and your bachelor’s degree was only enough to get you in the door, a master’s degree could be a necessary stepping stone for you to cross to the other side and enjoy the additional rewards that come with promotional opportunities.
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3. Change Your Career Path
According to 2020 Career Change Statistics, “70% of the workforce is actively looking for a change in career,” and 39% of those same people are doing so because they hope for a better salary. However, “50% of Americans see educational requirements as a barrier to advancing or changing their careers.”
If you feel like the educational requirements pose a barrier to you reaching your dream job, going back to grad school could bring you one step closer to making the change you desire to better support yourself and meet your needs.
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The second need level on Maslow’s hierarchy, safety, includes “the security of body, of employment, of resources, of morality, of family, and of health.” As regards safety of employment, going back to grad school can help with advanced degrees being in more demand than ever before.
In terms of feeling safe about going back to school, here are two great incentives to alleviate any worry you might be feeling:
- Balancing your schedule is easier than ever with so many programs geared toward working professionals.
- Many employers offer partial or even full tuition reimbursement.
4. Find Yourself in Greater Demand
Too many recent college graduates are learning that a bachelor’s degree is no longer the only requirement when it comes to finding a good job anymore. The New York Times calls it credential inflation, quoting Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools: “The master’s [degree] is now the fastest-growing degree. The number awarded … more than doubled since the 1980s, and the rate of increase has quickened substantially in the last couple of years.”
The words bachelor’s required, master’s preferred are becoming almost ubiquitous in job listings these days. By going back to graduate school, however, ticking that box in the list of qualifications can give you peace of mind and more security in the job market. When you know you’ve got the ability and the experience, don’t let the lack of credentials stand in your way.
5. It’s Easier Than Ever
We’re not implying graduate coursework is easier than ever; it’s still as rigorous and challenging as it has always been. However, the ability to fit grad school into your existing life and schedule has certainly improved.
Master’s programs are increasingly offered online; in fact, in 2016, 31% of master’s courses were entirely online, and 21% were at least partially online. Additionally, following the COVID-19 pandemic, more schools have increased their online capacity, making that number even higher.
Distance learning isn’t the only concession graduate schools have made for working professionals. Many brick-and-mortar schools offer classes for students to attend entirely in the evenings and/or on weekends as well, making it a lot easier to find a program that works with your schedule.
For that reason, class locations and times no longer need to be a factor for busy professionals who want to increase their education while keeping their current jobs and maintaining a satisfying work-life-study balance.
6. Employers May Offer Tuition Reimbursement
It’s no secret graduate school can be expensive, and student loan debt is a legitimate concern. However, more than half (56%) of companies now offer tuition benefits as part of their employee incentive packages. If your income is one of your safety concerns, you should definitely have a discussion with your employer.
Love and Belonging
The next level in the hierarchy is love and belonging. Humans are social beings who desire interaction with one another. Therefore, “this level of the hierarchy outlines the need for friendship, intimacy, family, and love. Humans need to … feel like they belong in a group.”
Going back to graduate school can probably fill this need in more than one way — for the purposes of this discussion, though, we’re looking at how grad school helps you network and advance in your field.
7. Make Important Connections
Graduate school can help you surround yourself with like-minded people in a very particular niche. These people, like you, are generally focused, motivated, mature, and share at least some of your interests. They’ll also end up being industry leaders in their field someday, which is why they (again, like you) are pursuing an advanced degree. They’ll not only be nice to know, but good to know as you move forward along your chosen path.
8. Surround Yourself with (and Become One of) the Best in Your Business
Please note we’re not only referring to your classmates when we talk about making useful connections. In grad school, you’ll also be surrounded by leading thinkers in your field — your instructors and guest lecturers. These are terrific people to get to know and learn from. Once you’ve graduated and start gaining the practical experience that follows, you become one of them.
One aspect of the esteem need hierarchy is self-respect and esteem; the other is recognition and respect from others. Earning your master’s degree can enhance both.
9. Build Your Reputation and Self Esteem
Your self-esteem should start to grow the moment you make the decision to enroll. You’ll know you’re investing in your future, improving your lot, and showing you have the confidence and ability to “do hard things.” As you move through your program, each success will feed that confidence until it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle. In the end, you’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I did that.”
At the same time, you can give your current or future employer the same message. As mentioned earlier, hiring managers and HR directors like to see that an employee or candidate has the stick-to-itiveness to complete graduate school. They also respect the knowledge you gain and the expertise you develop throughout the process.
Finally, the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization, harkens back to what we mentioned at the beginning of the article: after the more elemental needs (physiological, safety, love and belonging, and esteem) are met, those things that fulfill you and enable you to meet your potential (your “wants”), can become your next level of need.
10. Meet Your Potential
According to CFI, the need for self-actualization can manifest in different ways:
- Obtaining skills
- Continued education
- Utilizing skills, knowledge, and talents
- Pursuing life dreams
- Seeking happiness
If any of the above manifestations resonates with you, it may be time to consider graduate school.
Whether your motivation for going to grad school stems from a need for security, peace of mind, community and connection, esteem, a desire to fulfill your potential, or all of the above, Point Loma Nazarene University can help you meet those needs. Feel free to explore the graduate area of our website — we feel sure you’ll find a program and schedule that’s right for you.