Is Furthering Your Education Worth It?
“I want to go back to school because I'm not sure what I want to do next in life.”
“I wish I could get those three years back that I wasted on grad school.”
These are two quotes from real conversations that I've had in the past few weeks. During these confusing times, we look for easy solutions. We think that going back to school will help us get through these difficult days.
Should you go back to school for further education? It's not that simple. Let's look at the pros and cons of this idea…
I'm not against education at all. I'm against life avoidance though. I'm against racking up further debt that's going to be tough to pay off.
According to this article on Forbes, the average student loan debt is now at $32,731. That's just from undergrad studies. We can't ignore this number when discussing further education because we have to face our debts at some point. We also can't put off our retirement planning since we don't want to work forever.
On the flip side, you don't want to be stuck in a field that you absolutely loathe for the next 30 years of your life. You don't deserve to be miserable because you chose the wrong major at 18.
I want to look at the idea of going back to school as an adult and what you should think about…
What should you think about when it comes to further education as an adult?
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain
Going back to school as an adult is not a decision that you should take lightly. These are the most important questions to look at…
What's the opportunity cost of being in school?
The biggest expense is always opportunity cost. When you say yes to going back to college, you say no to many other options.
What are you saying no to in this case?
- Making money at your current job and in general.
- Compound interest on your investments from the money that you could be earning and putting away.
- Networking in your current field.
- Paying down your existing debt.
- Trying to get better at your job.
Missing out on 1-4 years in your 20s/30s with a limited income is a tough situation to put yourself into. You're going to fall behind on savings, retirement planning, and building yourself up.
I've seen friends get ahead by simply focusing on a career at a young age where they started saving and contributing to retirement planning.
How much money can you earn in this new field?
I hate to say this, but after 22 it's difficult to go back to school for the experience alone. You have to be able to justify the financial investment of being in school.
What are the numbers like in this field? You can easily find out how much money you could earn in this new field (Payscale.com is a good starting point) by looking at salaries.
I want you to look at the income potential in this new field and then go over the next few questions:
- How does it compare to your current job?
- How much debt would you have to acquire to earn this new salary?
- Is it worth it?
These are critical questions to look at because we can't ignore the harsh reality of finances. You have to know the numbers so that you don't end up in a new field where you can barely cover your debt payments.
With that being said, there are many programs out there that could help you exponentially increase your salary. You spend some money today and then make more back tomorrow.
Do you really want to switch fields or do you just hate your job?
I had a buddy quit his boring desk job because he wanted to become a firefighter. I had another friend leave engineering for the police force. I can understand if you want to switch fields because you feel like you ended up in the wrong vocation.
However, most people just hate their current job. Don't let one terrible boss force you back into the college system.
I promise you that going back to school won't solve all of your problems. You may want to start by trying to get a different job.
If you do really want to enter a new field, then don't let anything stop you though.
What are some other options that don't involve going back to school?
“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” — Robert Frost
We assume that going back to college is the best option mainly because it's the safest. However, formal education isn't always the best choice as an adult looking for a change. Instead, consider some of the following options to help you save money.
Try to switch jobs.
Instead of giving up on the workforce, try to get a new job. There's a strong possibility that you're disenchanted with the company that you work for and need to switch jobs. Just because you're in the wrong company, it doesn't mean that you have given up on an entire industry.
Try to see if you can land a different gig in the same field before you go back to school to switch your entire life trajectory.
See if your job will pay for you to upgrade your skills.
Can you upgrade your current skills to make more money?
Many companies offer certificates and programs to staff to upgrade their skills. You could just be at a low pay scale at the moment. A few upgrades could bring you up the ladder into a more fulfilling role with better pay.
I find that most of us don't enjoy the first few years in a new career because we had such high expectations leaving college. As a student, you figured that you would be on top of the world when you graduated. When you start working, nobody really values your opinion and you don't feel like you're contributing much. So you naturally want to go back to school.
You may just need time in the field. You may need to put some more hours in. When you go back to school, you run the risk of being over-educated (which is a real thing).
Consider a career sabbatical.
You don't have to enroll in formal education when you take time off. You could be simply burned out with your job or your situation. You may just need a change of scenery or a chance of pace. There's nothing wrong with going on a trip or considering an alternative option. You don't have to go back to college for four years when you feel like making changes.
None of these solutions are simple, but they could save you tons of money by avoiding going back to college for another 4 years. On the flip side, a stint in college could help you land a higher paying job that you enjoy.
This is what I want you to think about before deciding on if further education is worth the cost. There's nothing wrong with going back to college if you have a plan to make more money. I just don't want to see you avoid life for another four years by jumping around between programs.
“The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson.” — Tom Bodett
Have you been debating furthering your education? Comment your thoughts below!