Factors to consider before pursuing an advanced degree

Advanced degrees have long been associated with better career prospects and higher earnings. Women seem to be especially aware of that, as the Council of Graduate Schools/GRE Survey of Graduate Enrollment and Degrees noted that, in the fall of 2017, the majority of first-time graduate students at all levels were women. Among master’s degree candidate’s that fall, 59 percent were female while 53.5 percent of doctoral candidates were women.

The decision to pursue an advanced degree requires careful consideration. Such a pursuit requires a considerable investment of time and money, and while those are two important factors to consider before making a decision (more on that below), they’re not the only things women must think of as they try to make the best decision.


Timing and time are two different things. While many people considering graduate degrees think about how much time they’ll need to complete their degrees, timing also merits consideration. Newly minted graduates may want to take a break after expending so much effort to earn their undergraduate degrees. Taking time between degrees can provide the opportunity to recharge, and it also can give young graduates a chance to get some professional experience. That experience can inform their future grad school decision, perhaps reassuring them they’re on the right career path or compelling them to pursue other avenues. But enrolling right after completing your undergraduate studies can be beneficial as well. That’s especially so for recent grads who hope to start a family soon after graduation. The longer you delay enrolling in a graduate program, the longer you may delay starting a family, which can have a lasting impact.

Career prospects

While it’s easy to assume an advanced degree will greatly enhance your career prospects and increase your earning potential, it’s not necessarily that simple. When considering the pursuit of an advanced degree, try to determine if you’ll be in the workforce long enough to benefit from the increased earnings. Women who are mid- to late-career might not benefit considerably or at all from the extra earnings if they’re paying for their advanced degrees themselves, as the cost of tuition and other fees might be higher than the extra earnings. In addition, some advanced degrees won’t necessarily lead to considerably higher salaries than you’re likely to earn with a bachelor’s degree. That will depend on your profession.


The time required to pursue an advanced degree merits strong consideration. Many students pursuing a master’s degree full-time can earn their degrees in two years, while those who attend part-time will need more time to complete their degree programs. Doctoral programs take considerably longer.


The cost of an advanced degree varies widely depending on the program. Some programs may cost $20,000 or less, while others will cost more than $100,000. Many doctoral candidates receive financial aid from their schools or lenders, but the cost of a Ph.D. is still considerable, especially when considering the potential lost earnings during the years while the degree is being pursued.

Women receive the majority of advanced degrees earned at colleges and universities across the country. Choosing whether or not to pursue such a degree requires careful consideration of a host of factors.


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