If you’re frustrated with the amount of money you make, it might be a good idea to go back to school. People with advanced degrees are more likely to be employed and are more likely to earn higher salaries. For example, if you’re tired of grinding it out as an entry-level nurse, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can make it easier to get a new job as a nursing administrator or health policy manager.
However, given the lifestyle and financial changes involved, the decision to go back to school is complex and not to be taken lightly.
Education and Salary Stats
The difference in earnings between those with and without advanced academic degrees is reflected both in starting salaries and in earning trajectories. Employees with advanced education degrees tend to earn more over their lifetimes, and their salaries increase with the experience they gain. Workers who have achieved more in their educations are more likely to be employed regularly at full-time jobs, too, so their life earnings benefit from that as well.
Data from the 2000 US census demonstrates that advanced degrees strongly correlate with employment. At 86%, adults aged 21 to 64 years are the most likely to be employed. However, when we drill down into education levels, the employment rates for this age bracket begin to vary. Some 83% of those with bachelor’s degrees are employed, while 71% of those with high school degrees are.
Median earnings go up as well with more education. High school graduates earn $27,351, college graduates $42,877, and employees with advanced degrees earn $55,242 on average, the census reveals.
… But Education Isn’t the Whole Picture
It’s important to remember that education level is hardly the only demographic factor that determines salary averages. Men with advanced degrees earn significantly more than women with the same degree of education.
Whites in the US earn more than minorities, even when education is taken into account. And every city and region of the country has its own job marketplace and costs of living. In any case, potential earnings are not the whole story. Tuition can be expensive, and the lifestyle upheaval considerations are significant.
Before you decide to go back to school, ask yourself some important questions:
- Why do you want to go back to school? Do you want to advance in your career? Switch to another career?
- What will you gain from this degree? The program’s marketing department might promise you an increase in job prospects and income, but do your own research – talk to students, professors, and potential future employers to find out how much you will really benefit.
- Can you afford to go back to school? How will you pay tuition and live without a salary? If you need to be working, is it possible to work and study at the same time?
Once you have figured out the answers to these questions, you can make an informed decision about whether going back to school is the right move for you. If you can handle the short-term upheaval, an advanced degree can impact your earning potential for the long term and help you support your family and save for retirement.
Decide for Yourself
Ultimately, the decision to go back to school is personal and often emotional. You need to choose the right path for yourself and for your family, factoring in both the immediate disadvantages and the long-term advantages.
Image: Flickr by Nina Matthews Photography