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 from a master’s to a doctoral degree.

There are many excellent reasons for furthering your education. Here are a few things to consider as you approach making a commitment to the next degree program.

1. Evaluate Your Career Goals

When you set out to get your first degree, you may have had specific career goals in mind. When considering more advanced education, it’s good to re-evaluate those goals and see what’s changed. Do you want a specific promotion or position? 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 figure out where you want to take your career, you can then consider whether getting another degree supports that goal.

2. Plan Around Those Updated Goals

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

  • Specific degree: Are there better opportunities for the career you want if you pursue advanced education? Does your field of education require a specific degree?
  • Specific curriculum: Is there a specialized area of study you need to pursue to get the job you want? For example, if you’re interested in becoming more focused on human resources, it would be good to seek a master’s degree in HR.
  • Licensure or certification: Will you need a specific license or certificate to reach your career goal? Would a licensure or certificate program be enough to reach your goal, or would you also need to pursue the next level of degree?

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. Figure Out Your Return on Investment

First, determine the cost of the degree program you’re interested in. Then, research the potential return on your investment. Action steps include:

  • Research job outlook and salary information: There are several websites that report salary ranges and job outlooks for common professions. Visit sites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics and search for income levels of the position you’re seeking. Is the potential raise in pay and job outlook worth the time and money required to get the degree? (Keep in mind that salary ranges vary between (cities/regions)
  • 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. Find out if they would recommend you spend the time and money on earning another degree to get a job like theirs.
  • Consider intangible costs: How would pursuing a degree affect your life? 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 should put you in a good position to make an informed decision based on practical, real-world experiences of others. An informed decision will give you additional confidence as you pursue the next step of your education.

5. Continue Gaining Experience

There’s a misconception that once you get the degree, you’re ready to get the position you want. But that’s not always true—employers want to see education and experience. To make sure you continue to gain relevant experience while you’re in school:

  • 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 career goals.
  • Take an internship: If it’s right for you, find an internship to gain first-hand, 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.