How I Decided to Go Back to Graduate School

by Erika Torres

student-debtIn the past seven years since I graduated college (gasp!), I have applied to journalism school, law school, public relations school…I mean, I could not for the life of me figure out what I wanted to go to school for.

I had kind of always assumed that I would go to graduate school, but I kept applying and getting cold feet. Do I really want to do that? Do I really want to take on more debt? Is this the right choice for this time in my life?

And trust me when I say, it was really hard to turn down the USC School of Journalism, but $80,000 for two years? No, thank you!

I felt like graduate school was a big commitment and for some reason, every time I was set on going somewhere, I always ended up getting cold feet.

Well, no more. Graduate school for my Master’s in Public Administration starts in less than a month.

I am really excited about it, but also a little bit terrified of the workload, and being busy, and having to study and take tests-oh em gee.

But I knew that this time, I had to do it, and I would be a fool not to. You see, my company pays for 75% of my schooling.

The whole “Do I want to take on more debt to pay for graduate school?” question was completely wiped out. And honestly, that’s a pretty big question and something that could definitely hold you back. Because you want to make sure that you’re going to get a return on your investment.

Now, this is my fifth job since I graduated college. But for once, I finally see myself staying here long term. In fact, at more than two years, this is the longest job I’ve had!

The possibilities for promotion are great and I really like what I do. SO back in June, I started looking seriously into attending graduate school. At the time, I was hell bent on attending an online school, for the flexibility and the ability to finish the program earlier. But as it turns out, most people think an online degree is worth less.

This, of course, is not true, as many online universities offer a great return on your investment, especially when you factor in how much you will save on expenses like transportation, housing, and moving. One thing to remember is that while the cost that is associated with earning a graduate degree is high, the potential return on this investment makes it well worth the initial risk. As long as you are motivated to complete your degree and pursue high-paying opportunities in your field, you can expect to earn a much higher wage once you finish up, even if you choose to go the online route.

And even when I decided to go to online school anyway, I finally had to back out (see? cold feet again!) when I got a bad feeling that the school was just a little too money-hungry for my taste.

So then I ended up applying for a more highly-respected program nearby.

And finally–FINALLY–I feel good about my choice to go back to school, I feel confident in the degree I chose, and the program.

So here we are: In exactly four weeks I will be a grad student.

I am ready.

Do you have your Master’s Degree? Do you want to go back to school? What’s holding you back?



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City Girl March 9, 2013 - 6:55 am

How excited that you’ll be starting graduate school soon! And, I love that you found a way to do it without breaking your bank. The skills and knowledge you’ll gain and refine are mutually beneficial to you and your company.

I did one program with debt and one without. I still love school and my degrees, but I rolled my eyes when one of my supervisors suggested that I go for my PhD. In certain academic circles, my JD isn’t weighed as heavily, even though I also have an MA. Yeah, I’m rolling my eyes again… xoxo

One Frugal Girl February 13, 2013 - 8:17 pm

I received my master’s a year after finishing my undergrad degree. It was nice to get it over with at such a young age and my company paid for the entire degree, but looking back I wish I had studied something more interesting. I studied Information Systems, but I’d love to go back for a MFA one day.

Sara February 13, 2013 - 2:46 pm

I will finish my graduate degree in December, and I cannot wait! I love being in school and I love the degree that I am working on, but I think that I did a poor job of picking a program, which is something I wouldn’t find worth mentioning if I wasn’t a full-time student.

Mo' Money Mo' Houses February 12, 2013 - 3:01 pm

That sounds awesome. At this point I have no plans on going back to school, I like learning on the job, but who knows!

Holly February 12, 2013 - 11:33 am

I have a Master’s degree and then decided to go back for my Ph.D…I was fully funded for my Master’s and am fully funded for my Ph.D. (in fact it is my job), so it isn’t a bad deal. Yay for no debt! Good luck with your Master’s degree, you’ll do great !

Jackie February 11, 2013 - 5:13 pm

Just curious-why MPA and not MBA? Do you work in the public/govt sector?

Shannon-ReadyForZero February 11, 2013 - 4:54 pm

Congratulations on your new journey and for finding a job that you love! I’ve also wanted to go back to grad school many, many times. But I also can’t justify the cost – it’s more of a personal goal than a professional goal for me at some point.

Sophie February 11, 2013 - 4:27 pm

Will your employer consider the masters when you apply for promotions?

I’m currently studying post-grad and it’s HARD to study on top of full time work. I worked all through high school and uni (college), but studying while working in a full time professional role is way more than I bargained for. I’ll be pulling out before I complete the masters – only two classes to go and then I’ll have a grad diploma, which seems like enough to me.

This is definitely not to say that it will be the same for you! I hadn’t considered what I really wanted to get from my masters before I started, and that’s done me a real disservice because I’ve managed to get as far as I want to in my career without one. And I’ve never had a break from both working and studying at the same time, so I think I’m just over it now 😛 it might have been different for me if I’d had a decent period of just working between uni and post-grad study. It sounds like you’ve thought this decision through a lot better than I did!!

Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals February 11, 2013 - 8:25 am

Be SO GLAD you didn’t spend $80k on journalism school. I spent $55k for my master’s in broadcast (ugh, seriously), and my cousin actually just completed that USC program (Annenberg, right?) in 2011… and now works as a personal assistant for some Hollywood floozy because she can’t find a job that’ll pay better in her actual trained profession. I think an MPA will get you much further in your professional pursuits. Congrats!

Michelle February 11, 2013 - 8:04 am

Exciting! I received my Finance MBA last summer and I don’t regret it. However, I am super glad that I’m done!

Budget & the Beach February 11, 2013 - 7:33 am

Congrats! Where are you going? And when the company pays for that much, I see it as a win/win, especially if you like the job you’re at. There would be no point in going to GS for what I do for a living. And honestly the thought is studying…my old brain couldn’t handle it. 🙂

Joanna @ Our Freaking Budget February 11, 2013 - 7:29 am

Awesome! How exciting. Part of me really misses the steep learning curve that being in school brings. It forces you to grow so much in a short amount of time… I think it’s a very rewarding feeling. I might like to go back and get my master’s in teaching at some point.

And honestly, if you’re company’s paying for it, there are only upsides to getting your master’s! Good luck!

SavvyFinancialLatina February 11, 2013 - 7:12 am

I have a Bachelors, Master’s in Supply Chain, and finishing my MBA in in May. I did it all back to back.
My mom wants me to get a PhD for the prestige, but it probably won’t happen.
The degrees helped me land the job I have now.
Good luck on your M. PA!

newlywedsonabudget February 11, 2013 - 9:14 am

I always thought I wanted a phd just so I could be called doctor, haha

Tanner February 11, 2013 - 6:29 am

I am not sure about a Master’s Degree yet. It’s very off my radar for a few more years. I am taking a field certification exam this December (certification is the equivalent of CPA cert for my field), so I think that should suffice for now. My work doesn’t pay or help pay for any of the costs (you’re SO lucky!), so there would be no way I’d be able to afford that and be able to move like I want. Maybe in the future… Besides, a key component is that you’re staying in that company. I am sure there’s a time requirement to meet for them to afford those costs (like, you have to stay with the company 2-5yrs after getting your degree or you owe them money back), so considering I’m leaving here in 2 years, it wouldn’t make sense, even if they did offer some sort of reibursement.

That said, I’m excited for you! Should be a whole new experience coming March. Wish you the best!

Shaba February 11, 2013 - 6:10 am

I have an MBA that I got immediately after my undergrad because I landed a graduate assistant position that reimbursed my tutition. I have dreams of getting a Ph.D. or a MFA one day, but at this point in my life neither would provide any type of benefit to my earning potential. Right now additional degrees are just a pipe dream for me. However, I am seriously considering picking up a few courses at the local community college in subjects I missed in college (web design, graphic arts, etc.) More and more positions seem to require a basic understanding of those disciplines and I think I’m at a disadvantage since my current job sort of exists in a vacuum where those skills aren’t used.

Emily @ evolvingPF February 11, 2013 - 6:01 am

My PhD is in process – if I left the program right now, I’d have a master’s. I took 1 year between finishing undergrad and starting my PhD and it was a pretty easy decision as you need a PhD (plus postdoctoral training) to do what I wanted to do. Now that what I want to do has changed the PhD may not be crucial, but I’m too invested now to quit!

Mysti February 11, 2013 - 5:03 am

Good luck!

I have a Master’s in Elementary Education. I went back to grad school 4 years after I finished college. Worked a full-time job, a part-time job, and took 2 classes a semester. Graduated with a 3.97. So it is possible to do it all.

What do you want to do with your degree?

newlywedsonabudget February 11, 2013 - 9:10 am

I am getting the degree because I know it will make me more competitive for promotions in the future. A majority of the current supervisors have a higher degree. I want to keep up with the game!

Jamie Dickinson @ YourSavingAngels February 11, 2013 - 3:54 am

Congrats. Hope it all goes well. I’ve done a few qualifications and part-time courses (both at school and online) since graduating 5 years ago. All of which have proven very rewarding and beneficial to my career.

Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies February 11, 2013 - 3:43 am

I have a masters, but I got it the year after undergrad. For our jobs, there’s not a whole lot that more schooling would get us, and we want to hop off the beaten path within the next 5 or so years anyhow, so more schooling just isn’t in our plan.


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