5 things to consider before pursuing your next degree

January 17, 2024

Reading time: 3-4 minutes

Are you considering how another degree could help you realize your personal or professional goals? Maybe you have a bachelor’s degree and think a master’s would be a logical next step, or perhaps you would like to move beyond your master’s to a doctoral degree.

A master’s degree is a postgraduate degree that allows you to develop a deeper understanding in your area of study and help advance your theoretical and applied knowledge. Through study and complex problem solving, students can gain a range of skills applicable to their field.

A doctoral degree is an advanced academic degree you can earn that represents your mastery and expertise in your area of study. Depending on the program you choose, you may need to present your research in a dissertation or participate in a practicum as part of your degree requirements.

There are many reasons to further your education. Here are a few considerations to weigh when deciding whether to pursue your next degree.

1. Evaluate your personal or professional goals

When you earned your first degree, you may have had specific personal or professional goals in mind. When considering more advanced education, it’s good to reevaluate those goals and see what’s changed. Do you want to be seen as an expert in your field? Are you hoping to change your field or move into a different aspect of your current field? What is your end goal on your career path?

Once you decide where you want to take your career, you can consider whether getting another degree supports that goal. Explore how Capella’s Career Development Center provides resources to help support you.

2. Plan around those updated goals

When you’ve established your new goals, you’re ready to narrow down your educational choices. When considering different programs, research these questions and topics:

  • Specific degree: Are there other career opportunities if you pursue advanced education? Does your field of work require a specific degree? Take time to explore different master’s degree and doctoral degree program options.
  • Specific curriculum: Is there a specialized area of study you need to pursue your professional goals? For example, if you’re interested in becoming more focused on human resources, earning a master’s degree in HR may help. Do you know how courses will fit into your current schedule? Make sure your learning format has the flexibility and support that fits the way you live.
  • Other credentials: If you determine that a degree is not needed but an additional credential would be helpful, you could consider a certificate program. These have fewer courses than a degree but may fill in gaps to help you toward your goals.

In addition to considering the degree you need, also ask yourself: Are there skills or experiences that you will need to acquire along with a degree to reach your goal? Do you have those skills, or do you need to pursue them? How will you fill those gaps? This can help you determine which electives to take, internships to pursue and industry associations to join.

3. Do your research

Consider questions you may have about your degree program and how pursuing your degree could affect your life. Action steps could include:

  • Talk to people in the industry: Schedule informational interviews with professionals that already have the job you have in mind. Before the interview, use LinkedIn to research their career paths and develop questions to bring to the meeting.
  • Consider intangible costs: How would pursuing a degree affect your lifestyle? How would the time and energy you put into your coursework affect your home, family or personal life? Do you have the support of your friends, family and current workplace? Figure out if earning a degree will be worth the short-term sacrifices you may need to make in other areas of your life.

4. Put it all together

Working out the answers to the above questions may help put you in a position to make an informed decision based on practical, real-world experiences of others. That can also help give you additional confidence as you pursue the next step of your education.

5. Continue gaining experience

To make sure you continue to gain relevant experience while you’re in school, you could:

  • Connect with professionals. Stay connected to people in your desired industry, and maybe even get a mentor.
  • Seek out stretch assignments at work. Ask your boss for projects that are related to your professional goals.
  • Take an internship. If it’s right for you, find an internship to gain firsthand, real-world experience.

Ready to pursue your next degree? Find out if Capella may be a good fit for you. Connect with an enrollment counselor today.

Capella cannot guarantee that a graduate will secure any specific job title, a promotion, salary increase or other career outcomes. We encourage you to research requirements for your job target and career goals.

Explore Capella’s master’s and doctoral programs.

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Get started on your journey now by connecting with an enrollment counselor. See how Capella may be a good fit for you, and start the application process.