Pursuing a master's degree – Is it right for you?

< Back to Money Minute

In August 2012 I completed my bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications with a focus in journalism from a public four-year university. I graduated with two things – a college degree and over $30,000 in debt.
With the year of experience I had as the news editor for my university’s newspaper, I was only applying for entry level positions. I knew I needed to get my feet wet and start somewhere. I struggled for months to find any employment in my field. There were very few job openings in the journalism field and when there were openings, I was not considered a qualified candidate.
Three months after graduation I was six months into job searching. I got very frustrated with the lack of opportunities in my area. I finally settled on a retail job until I could find something. A job is better than no job, right? A year went by and I still had absolutely no luck finding a job in my field. Just when I started to think I had wasted four years of my life and money I received information about an online interactive media master’s program with a social media focus.
During my undergraduate studies I acted as the social media coordinator for the university’s housing department. I also held an internship with a local marketing company that gave me some exposure to marketing in the online community. I really enjoyed these experiences so I made a phone call to the university who was offering the program to receive more information.
One of my big questions was how much it cost to complete the program. To complete the 36 credit hour program I would owe the university $32,220 before other fees like interest rates, books, software licensing, et cetera. I was hesitant at first. I’d be paying more for a two year program than I did for a four year degree I wasn’t even using.
My husband and I discussed the pros and cons to continuing my education. I’ll be honest with you – the only factor we really considered a con, aside from taking out loans, was that we had a newborn at home. It would be a lot of stress and time consuming trying to balance the two, especially when there were times my husband had to be out of town for work.
I applied to the program, got accepted, and started classes in August 2013. I will not tell you that completing my master’s degree was easy. It was actually far from it. I faced challenges at home and in school. There were days I felt defeated. Days I thought there was no way I’d complete the program with my sanity intact, but on August 9, 2015 I finally completed the master’s program.
My hard work paid off as I was offered a position with Apprisen, just two days after I completed the program. Deciding to continue my education to pursue a master’s degree is one of the best decisions I have ever made! I was not confident in my choice of completing a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications but looking back I now realize it was one step in the path that led me to where I am today.
If you’re considering pursuing a master’s degree I have two pieces of advice. 1. Do your research. 2. Don’t let fear or “what if’s” get in your way. The Princeton Review suggests four questions to ask yourself when deciding if grad school is right for you and you can read them here.
If you have a program you’re interested in try looking at top schools ranked by U.S. News for more information. There are programs that are offered in the classroom, online, or a combination of both. Decide what’s right for you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a school for more information. The worst thing that happens is you spent time researching just to decide graduate school isn’t right for you. The best thing that happens is you’ve taken one more step towards achieving your goals.
I know how overwhelming the sticker shock can be when you pursue higher education, but it’s important to stay positive and remember why you’re doing it. I did not receive any scholarships to pay for my education. I paid for my undergraduate and graduate degree with grants and federal loans, but there are other ways to pay for your education, like the 529 savings plan. My higher education journey will continue outside of the classroom as I plan how I’ll be repaying my debt.
Be on the lookout for part two of this blog series to see how I will manage my budget and plan on repaying my loans.

< Previous Next >