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How going back to school for your master's degree can help you make a career change

Thursday, January 4, 2018
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How going back to school for your master's degree can help you make a career change
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"Do what you love, and you'll never work a day in your life" - it's a popular saying, but one that unfortunately doesn't always ring true in life. Not being passionate about a job is one of the main reasons that individuals choose to undertake career changes, along with a desire to make a higher salary. 

If you're considering a career change, you may feel overwhelmed or anxious about your decision and the work it will entail. You may wonder how you can smoothly transition to a new field after years of experience in your current industry. No matter what age you are, receiving an advanced degree in your new field of study can help you make the switch successfully. 

Let's take a closer look at how going back to school for a master's degree can help you make a career change:

It helps you establish yourself
It can be very difficult to get an employer to review your application for a position in your new chosen field if your previous experience and education are largely related to a different specialty. Employers may not want to take a chance on you when they receive scores of applications from individuals with résumés more closely matching the requirements of the position. This can lead to a vicious circle, where the only way to beef up your résumé is to gain work experience, while employers reject your application because you lack it. 

careerAn advanced degree can help you make a career change.

However, there is another way you can strengthen your résumé and begin establishing yourself as someone with expertise and viability in an entirely new field, and that's going to school for your master's degree. Laura Meyer, a senior business development manager at SoftBank Robotics US, experienced this when she was attempting to make a career change from events management to business. Meyer says that she had difficulty finding a job and felt "pigeonholed" by her extensive experience in events, as she describes in an article for LinkedIn Pulse. 

"I saw a master's degree as a way to redefine myself," she wrote. 

Going back to school for a master's degree in your new field can be an effective way to push both your career and your professional identity in a new direction. Having the degree on your résumé can show employers that you are serious about the change and have already accumulated useful knowledge and skills in the field. 

It helps you grow your professional network 
Another major benefit of going back to school for your master's if you wish to make a career change is that the degree program connects you with a vibrant professional network that can potentially lead you to new opportunities. Classmates, faculty members, alumni and career services professionals are all valuable resources in shaping your new career. The connections you make while in school can bring lasting benefits, whether that's introducing you to someone they know at a company where you'd like to work, giving you advice on your job application materials or tuning you into local workshops or networking events that may be useful for you. 

Furthermore, enrolling in a graduate degree program often exposes you to a rich variety of social and professional networking events held at the school and in the local area. 

However, the networking benefits of going back to school for your master's are not limited to on-campus programs. Students in online degree programs can still connect with their classmates and professors and take advantage of the institution's alumni network and career services department. 

When you're making a career change, every connection counts. Your degree program can be the foundation from which a vibrant new career takes shape. 

Tips for going back to school to support a career change:

Do your due diligence
Enrolling in a master's degree program is a big decision, involving significant time investment and often a major financial one as well. Thoroughly research schools and programs to find which will be best for you and your specific situation. Take into account the quality of the program, its relevance to your goals and objectives, the course material and how much work will be expected in the program. Reach out to the counselors at the school and learn about the experiences of current and former students to discern the quality of the program. As Jane Finkle, a career counselor based in Philadelphia explained in an interview with Monster, research the job placement rate of graduates of the master's program at which you're looking. If the graduates are landing positions similar to the one you would like, that's a good sign of a program that will be worth the investment. 

"Thoroughly research schools and programs to find which will be best for you.".

Have a plan 
Think through the realities of what enrolling in an advanced degree program would mean. How will you pay for the program? Can you receive financial aid? Will your employer reimburse the tuition? Consider whether you will be able to continue working full-time in your current role, or if you'll need to change your situation. Make sure you are aware of the time commitments that will be needed for studying, doing coursework and completing assignments, and create a realistic schedule for managing your time and responsibilities. 

Making a career change can feel overwhelming, but many people do it with great success. Going back to school for your master's degree can give you the confidence, knowledge and connections you need to set your sails in a new direction. 

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Queens College offers more than 100 master's degrees and advanced certificates in the liberal arts, sciences, social sciences, and teacher education.
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