I’m telling you now that if you asked yourself this, then it’s not time to go to school. The question in it implies uncertainty and you should NOT make a decision that includes this much money and time if you cannot definitively say to yourself that you should or should not be going. It’s almost like there is no middle ground.

But there is this funny phenomenon going on right now.

Have you noticed how many people are talking about Generation Y and all of their academic accomplishments?

You can’t go very far in an office without hearing how millennials have built up their educational arsenal more so than any other generation to date, and now that there are tons of millennials in the job market, Generation X is feeling pressure to build up their training to be able to compete with the younger crowd. I’m hearing it more from Generation X that they feel like Generation Y “looks better on paper” and that they can’t compete without another degree.

What makes matters worse is that now there are Gen Yers who are going back for SECOND and sometimes THIRD professional degrees as well, tacking on JD, MBA, MA, MS and PhD onto their resumes.

But the reasons for going back to school and incurring all this additional debt while investing lots and lots of time into continuing education is becoming more and more hazy. There are some myths developing around why people should go back to school.

Bust the Going Back to School Myths

I have no idea what I’m doing in my career so maybe I’ll get clarity while in school.

Yes…yes, this is becoming a thing, a fad.

Look, if you don’t know what you want to do, going back to school is a VERY expensive way to solve that AND you may not solve it while there!

Graduate school is a great tool if you can be clear how it can help ENHANCE your career. That means you have already figured out what you want to do and the time in school will take you down that path…

Read: don’t go to grad school, if you don’t know how it will help you climb the career ladder.

I need more training to climb the proverbial career ladder.

Did someone tell you that or did you make an assumption?

Did you know that there are still people who are successfully getting promoted with the typical college degree?

You don’t need the degree to move up when you demonstrate your capabilities (I will caveat this by saying of course you cannot take on some professions without having the advanced degree, e.g. a lawyer, but notwithstanding those, come on…).

The only way to change careers is to go back to school.

I get it. Career changes are hard and grad school CAN smooth out some bumps in the road in making a transition in fields, but you should weigh your options carefully here. Grad school can easily cost you $200,000 in student loan debt.

Have you thought to first try transitioning careers without the expensive crutch?

Take some time talking to people in the field you want to go into and see how they did it and if an advanced degree is really necessary to make the leap. At least then you know you are making the choice to enroll into school for the right reasons.

I don’t have a network and I can build one while in school.

Hold up, are you telling me that you have no contacts? What about your current/former classmates, current/former coworkers, family and friends? Yeah they count, too.

Lots of people get jobs through those connections and while it is awesome to be surrounded by a group of graduate school students from different ambitious backgrounds, do you really want to pay $200,000 for a network when you already have one?

Reasons to Go Back to School

Of course, there are reasons to go back to school. I’m definitely a member of Generation Y with master’s degree and that degree has served me extremely well (yes, even as a career coach).

It goes without saying that if you are clear that you want to be a doctor, lawyer, or nurse, there is just some training you need from school, as well as attached certifications/licenses.

But if you have been actively trying to make a career transition for a couple years and it’s just not happening, your go-to should NOT be an advanced degree (though that might be the decision you come to later). First, you need to check in with what strategy are you using to land your job. If that’s solid and you’ve been hearing from mentors and your network that you need additional training to make the transition, then go for it. Start looking at schools and programs.

Ultimately, your goal is to make sure your financial and time investments have a positive return. I was so intentional about my graduate school program and it led to many benefits for me. First, I got a full-tuition scholarship. Second, I milked my two years in school for all it’s worth, getting every skill and experience I wanted. And third, I landed a job that almost doubled my salary from my pre-grad school days. That’s how you know you have a return on investment.

It all starts with digging into what your intentions are around going back to school or getting additional training. Start there, and the rest will follow!

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