Graduate Studies: A Good Investment?

“Back to school, back to school, off to prove to dad I’m not a fool”

My parents don’t much care if I get my Masters degree or not, but like the incomparable Billy Madison I am going back to school. The interesting part about the situation is that when I graduated from the Faculty of Education last year I was ecstatic to be done with the place. I though the curriculum was ridiculous, I thought it was overpriced, and I still believe we deserved to be paid a token fee for our student-teaching hours, much how trades people get a token wage for their co-op work. I have many more criticisms of the Faculty, but I’ll digress for now. The bigger question is why would I challenge myself to go back so soon after such a negative experience? Is it a good investment?

I began thinking about a Masters degree when I realized that I thought the same way many administrators do in my Division. I hadn’t seriously considered rising within the world of education before, and I’m still not sure that is what I want to do, but I did see one thing that caught my attention. Many of the people trying to ‘rise up the chain’ were struggling with balancing young families, the stress-filled job of teaching, and school work after being out of the system for years. I really hated the thought of trying to do this. I realized that I would likely never have as much free time in my life as I do right now (before I get married and have a family) so if there was an ideal time to do it, now was probably it.

A Good Investment
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When I started looking into the program I was surprised to find out just how compact the Masters of Education program is in Manitoba. It is many less credit hours than a normal Masters Degree, and you have an option of not even doing a thesis! When I looked at the pay brackets within my division I realized that one or two years after I received my degree it would have paid for itself already. I also recognized that in the Education world trends and studies go in cycles (this can be very frustrating, but again, I digress) and that the ‘knowledge’ (or academic buzzwords) I currently have from my first Education Degree would give me a great head start. Without further delay I began the paperwork involved in becoming a ‘Master’ in the world of Education. I intend to keep our readers updated throughout the course of my studies and informed on my first-hand knowledge on the benefits and challenges of the situation. I am definitely hoping it will be a better experience than my B. Ed was.

I am interested in hearing some thoughts on getting Masters Degrees in other professions. I have heard from many people that in a non-unionized work environment Masters Degrees can make you overqualified. As a counter to this argument I have been told that these days, Bachelor Degrees are a dime-a-dozen and that to truly separate yourself from the pack you need a Masters degree.

Those of you that are considering Masters Degrees what is your reasoning as far as timing goes? Have you worked in your field for an extended period of time and realized that you need to upgrade in order to be considered for promotions? I would be interested in learning just how much more money the average Masters Graduate makes in certain fields as opposed to those with a Bachelor Degree. In a unionized environment where everything is slotted in for us it’s about 3-4K more per year. While this is considerable, I wonder what the results would be on the open market. Is that expertise worth much to people? What is it worth in relation to job experience?

I know that with the economy the way it is in North America right now many people are staying in school and upgrading just because the job market is so tight. The experts claim that the best investment to make in shaky times is in yourself (although when it comes to investing the ‘experts’ are wrong a lot more than their right) and your education.

Finally, I have heard from a lot of students who just love the student lifestyle and aren’t ready to give it up. I can see how the seducing siren call of being with thousands of young adults, getting to learn with some of the brightest minds around, and just the generally relaxed lifestyle of a student could be. For many students who just aren’t ready to make that 9-5 workday commitment, and don’t want to face reality (re: student loans) entering into a Masters Degree is a semi-productive procrastinating measure that is socially acceptable. You see, it’s not alright with people to graduate and continue to work jobs that permit for a lot of spare time and allow young people to have the work-life balance that they want at that time; but strangely, many more people will accept a meandering path through a Masters Degree as evidence that you are still working hard towards their idea of a good future.

Grad Studies Is A Good Investment

Personally the student life holds little allure for me anymore. I enjoying talking to my friends who are still in school, but I like the routine involved with being a teacher. I am one of those weird people who have always thrived on consistent, controlled environments. So naturally being a teacher fits that part of my personality well. I handled the unpredictable workload in university, but it wasn’t ideal for me. I have no wish to go back to being a full-time student who lives with 3-4 other people, or in a residence full of 18 year-olds. I still enjoy evenings filled with fun and friends, but they are a little less frequent now, and that works well for me. I had a great time while I was in school, but after a couple years in the Education program I was definitely ready to move on. Luckily the way the Masters program is set up for teachers it gives you a lot of flexibility. While writing papers with deadlines, and how to use academic journals is still fresh in my mind, I figure it shouldn’t be a big deal to take a course or two over the summers and maybe one more by correspondence during the school year. I could be wrong and severely underestimating the workload, but it should be an interesting experience nonetheless.  Not to mention a good investment. Wish me luck!

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Great post!

I don’t know why there is such an allure for students to live the student lifestyle. I have a friend like that too, she’s a teacher as well, but she sort of worked part time or in different jobs, until now. She’s going back for her Masters in September (though not in Ed.) I guess it could be the job market too, it’s hard to find a solid teaching job here in BC.

I agree that during times of recession investing in yourself and your education is a good idea. :)

I understand that a lot of people like the idea of staying in school when job prospects don’t look good, but I think that this is the wrong choice! School is EXPENSIVE, and there is a huge opportunity cost for not working.
I think that school can be great in certain situations, but I think that it is far too costly as an option when it is just too difficult to find work.

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