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What Is the Value of a Grad Program?

Key Takeaways

  • Compare the cost of the grad program with the potential bump in salary.
  • Factor in any scholarships or tuition reimbursement when evaluating the sticker price of grad school.
  • Research your industry’s starting salary for someone with a master’s degree, as well as higher positions you could advance to someday.

By Stephen Sellner | Citizens Bank Staff

There are a number of reasons to consider going to grad school.

For some, it’s a way to earn a higher salary or be considered for advancement (ex. getting an MBA). Then there are situations when grad school is a necessity — if you want to be a doctor, you need to go to medical school. Others use it as a way to pivot careers.

For the purposes of this story, let’s focus on grad school’s impact on salary and advancement. There are some instances when a master’s or other graduate degree makes financial sense and others when it doesn’t.

How do you figure out if grad school is worth it? Everyone’s favorite hobby: math!

Compare the cost of the grad program with the increase you should expect in earnings throughout your career. If the earnings outweigh the cost of the degree, then grad school makes financial sense. If not, you’ll have a tougher decision on your hands.

So how much will your grad program cost? You can usually find a school’s tuition on its website. Take that number, factor in the length of the program, and you’ll get a good sense of the degree’s sticker price. (Note: There will be other costs beyond tuition, but those will vary from person to person and school to school.)

Now that you know the cost, factor in the financial assistance you expect to receive to manage the cost of graduate school. Will you apply for scholarships? Does your employer offer tuition reimbursement? Take these funding sources into account so you’ll have your bottom line cost. You’ll likely take out a loan for any remaining cost, which means another student loan payment on top of the one(s) for undergrad.

Have you asked your employer if they offer tuition reimbursement? Talk to HR to find out for yourself.

Next comes the fun part: evaluating the rise in salary the degree could offer. What’s your industry’s starting salary for someone with a master’s degree? How about someone with only a bachelor’s degree? The difference in these salaries is critical when evaluating the financial benefit of grad school.

But don’t look solely at starting salaries. If all goes to plan, you’ll be advancing in your career and running the place in no time. Consider the salaries of positions you hope to have down the line. Sometimes a master’s degree is a prerequisite for managerial and other upper-level positions, so research those salaries. That’s where you could see the biggest return on your education investment.

Note: Make sure you research salaries of jobs in your location. Numbers can vary drastically from one part of the country to the next.

What to remember

Gather all the information you’ll need to make the best financial decision. Is the salary bump substantial enough to warrant the cost of grad school? Are there more affordable programs that you may have missed? Will you be able to manage repayment for undergrad and grad loans? How soon will you break even on your investment? Consider the answers to these questions and do some soul-searching before making your final decision.

Ready to consider grad school?

Even a grad program that makes financial sense for your career still comes with a cost. Need help funding your continued education? Learn more about Citizens Bank’s multi-year approval that could last you from Day 1 to Graduation Day.

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