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Expert Q & A

Which academic program best fits your career and personal needs?

Taking the time to analyze your career goals, educational objectives, and personal commitments will help you choose a program that works for you. 

Q: I've been wanting to go back to school, but I'm unsure how to balance school with my career. What are my options?

Roberta Chinsky Matuson, a former human-resources careers expert for Monster.com and currently a principal at Human Resource Solutions in Northampton, MA, has this to say on the topic:

A graduate degree certainly can give you an advantage over the competition in today's marketplace, but you don't have to quit your job, move into a dorm, and live on ramen noodles to earn that master's. With so many options available—from online degrees to accelerated programs—executives are finding it easier to continue their education while keeping their day jobs.

I suggest asking yourself these five questions before dusting off your hot plate:

  • Do you want to enter a different field? If the answer is yes, then going back to school full time might be for you. Why delay your career transition? There's no time like the present to ramp up and get the education you'll need for your new career track.
  • Do you want to advance within your field? It doesn't make financial sense to leave your job and give up two or more years of income simply to move up in your current career. Consider other avenues for continuing your education, such as online degree programs, night school, or an accelerated degree program that will minimize your time juggling work and school.
  • Does your organization offer tuition reimbursement? If so, why not take advantage of a benefit you've already earned? Pursue that degree—but do it at a pace that feels right for you. Again, many universities offer accelerated and weekend programs that won't interfere with your demanding work schedule.
  • Is your goal simply to continue learning? Online courses might be an option worth considering. This approach lets you schedule learning around family, work, and personal obligations.
  • How will school affect your time for family or other personal interests? Will you be able to keep personal commitments while taking on this additional responsibility? Having the support of family and friends is crucial when you make the commitment to pursuing a degree in the midst of your career.
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