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What is a Post-Baccalaureate Degree - and Should You Earn One?

Jan 22, 2013 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

A post-baccalaureate degree is any degree you earn after your Bachelor’s. That question is simple to answer—the second one isn’t. Whether or not you should earn one depends on a large number of factors—including the type of degree, your career goals, your future earning potential, and industry requirements. Here are just a few things to think about when considering whether to continue your education past the Bachelor’s level.

What your industry requires

In some industries—such as law, medicine, psychology, or any academic teaching position—there are simply no opportunities, or very few opportunities, available for those
with less than an advanced degree. Some industries
require at least four years of education beyond the
Bachelor level simply for entry work. If this is the
case for you, prepare to spend a large portion of
your adult life in school.

See Also: Online Post-Baccalaureate Degree

Your goals

Some industries don’t require a Master’s, PhD, or law degree for entry-level work—but you want to advance. If this is the case, do your research before signing up for a traditional or accredited online degree programs. Find out what managers in the field you’re pursuing typically hold—and what hiring managers are looking for when singling people out for promotion. In addition, talk to your boss if you are already employed and want to advance in the company. It’s possible your employer will pay some or all of your tuition.

See Also: Online Degree Programs

Your potential earnings. and job potential

In some areas, you could stand to earn significantly more over a lifetime than someone with a Bachelor’s degree alone if you hold an advanced degree. For example, people who hold professional doctorates in law or medicine (J.D. or M.D. degrees) earn as much as $3.2 million more over their lifetimes than Bachelor’s degree holders. However, other positions don’t pay highly—even for people with advanced degrees—and as such, a postbaccalaureate degree in this area might not be such a good investment.

The competitiveness of your industry

Be sure your industry doesn’t suffer from high competition and a glut of recent graduates with advanced degrees—as law does currently, for example. In this case, you could graduate with an expensive degree—and the debt to prove it—only to have trouble landing a job. The best situation is a field that’s both high-paying and not particularly competitive.

The amount of time you have

If you’re willing to spend an additional four years out of the workforce to earn a PhD, that’s one thing. But some people can’t afford to delay working that long. And others are looking to qualify themselves for promotions soon, not within a few years. In these cases, a shorter graduate or professional certificate may be a better option than a full Master’s degree or higher in qualifying to move ahead at work.

The amount of debt you’re willing to take on

Not all are this expensive, but some postbaccalaureate programs can add $100,000 more to your student loan burden over the course of your education. Especially if you’re already carrying debt from your Bachelor’s degree program, this may be too much for you to handle—and too much to expect to be able to pay back easily given the average entry-level wage and level of competition in your industry. Assess your potential future financial situation very carefully before deciding to go back.

The financial aid

It’s not unusual for students to get stipends to go back to graduate school—in the form of teaching and research assistantships, tuition payment, and living expense payments. If you can find a program that will let you work and pay your expenses and stipend while you earn your degree, the program is considerably less risky to you.

Earning a postbaccalaureate degree can be a smart investment in your future. But not always. The situation depends on the industry you’re entering, your future earning potential, the cost of the program, and the level of competition in your field—among many other things. Before you go back to school, consider these issues—and you’re more likely to make the right decision.


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