I have decided to return to grad school to get my Masters in Public Administration. My bachelor’s is in English and Italian Studies. When I graduated college, I worked as a journalist but eventually switched to public relations.
The reason I am pursuing this degree is so that I can be considered for management positions in the future. Out of seven people in my department, three will be retiring within the next three to seven years. There will be a lot of job titles shifting and I want to be qualified.
My company is one of those that really value education. While I have about 5 years in PR experience, I have only worked in this particular field for about a year and a half (when I started this job). I think a master’s will give me that edge to stay competitive when compared to other qualified outside candidates.
The cost of a higher education
I still have about $21,000 in student loans left from my bachelor’s–what the hell am I doing considering taking on more debt for higher education?
Well, I’m lucky in that my company will pay up to 75% for my degree, in addition to a stipend for books. If I play my cards right, I can actually pay for my degree as I go, since my company reimburses after each semester. Of course, this will cause sacrifices in other areas, such as saving and paying off debt, but I truly believe this will be an investment in my future.I could essentially get my master’s degree for as little as $5,000-10,000. With $10,000 being on the high side.
Managers in my department can easily make six figures. And I know that as soon as I get my master’s, I will get a bump in pay no matter what.
Options, options, options
So with the whole “Is it worth it to go back to school?” question out of the way, here is where my real dilemma stands. As of right now, I am narrowing it down to TWO options.
Option 1 would have me waiting until March 2013 to start school. I would be attending a “distance learner” program at a CalState University. I would only have to go to campus (a 30 minute drive) on the first and last Saturday of each six-week class session. Online classes are held every Monday and Wednesday for three hours, and assignments are turned in each week.
I would attend an adult learner program beginning in late August from a pretty new university, that is affiliated with a well-respected local university. However, the diploma would have the name of the new university, which is not very well-known. Essentially, this school is known as an online program, but you do attend classes once a week with assignments online.
Pros and Cons
Everything in me wants to do Option 2. I want to start school as soon as possible before I lose motivation. And if I’m really being truthful, if I do Option 1, I will be almost 31 by the time I graduate, as opposed to 29/30 with Option 2. I don’t want my master’s degree to be a reason we delay starting a family.
WINNER: Option 2
Both programs would be about the same amount of money, with Option 2 costing $70 more per unit, or about $2500 more over the course of the program. I don’t think that’s enough of a difference to choose one school over the other.
Option 2 would require driving two minutes from where I currently work. It is literally right down the street. So I would get the class experience as well as the online component. Option 1, I would have to drive 30 minutes and pay for parking but I would only do this 4 times over 12 weeks–albeit on Saturday mornings!
WINNER: Option 2
While neither school will have the prestige of my bachelor’s degree, I am not dumb to the fact that some employers regard some degrees better than others. However, since I don’t plan on leaving my job and want to continue growing in my company, I feel like it wouldn’t or shouldn’t matter as much where I get my degree, as long as I have it.
Option 1 is definitely more well-known in our area than Option 2.
WINNER: Option 1
Which should I choose?
And this is where I ask your advice. Which one should I choose? Should I wait it out and go for the degree at the well known school even though I don’t like anything else about it? Or should I follow what I want and settle for the “online program” which is super close and I can get my degree done faster?