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MHA alumna MonaLisa Beckford talks about deciding to go to grad school

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Two years ago, I wrote an article about my decision to quit my full-time job to attend grad school (See the link to that article at the end). Now that I have graduated, many of my peers have asked if grad school was really worth it. I believe grad school was 100% worthwhile. However, there are four factors that make grad school worth the risk.

1) The degree is required for the career of your choice
The most common reason to pursue an advanced degree is that it is required for many professions. A physician must have a medical degree, a lawyer must have a law degree, and an architect must have an architecture degree. There is no way around that. However, your passion for a particular career should motivate you to get the necessary education and training for that career.

2) The degree would teach you relevant skills for your career field
An advanced degree, unlike most undergraduate degrees, is exclusively focused on one subject matter or career path. This means grad school teaches students specific knowledge and skills that would help them become successful in a specific career. A good example is the Master of Business Administration (MBA), the most popular advanced degree in America. The MBA teaches important hard and soft skills that would help people become successful managers, businessmen, or entrepreneurs.

This is the biggest reason why I pursued a Master of Health Administration (MHA). My goal is to have an exciting and rewarding career in health care. However, I realized my lack of certain hard skills would prevent me from climbing the corporate ladder. So I returned to University of Pittsburgh to pursue an MHA, where I took an array of business and healthcare courses, tackled operational projects at local hospitals, and completed an administrative internship. I developed specific hard skills like data analysis, project management, software skills, and leadership skills. I firmly believe these hard skills helped me land a job.

3) The degree would connect you with professionals in your career field
Grad school offers people a great opportunity to network with successful professionals in their career field. Universities typically offer career services to students such as job postings, career development workshops, and networking events. Grad students should take advantage of the career services offered by their university. Also, students should get to know their professors. Many professors either still work in the field or used to work in the field, so they can connect students to potential hiring managers or recruiters. I'm a proud example of networking through my professors. An adjunct professor connected me to a finance professional at the hospital that I want to work at. He then connected me to my boss, who interviewed me and hired me before graduation.

4) The degree will increase your earning potential
Although money shouldn't be the most important decision factor, it is a consequence of earning an advanced degree. Most high-paying careers require an advanced degree. According to SmartAsset.com, the average salary with a Bachelor's Degree is $59,124 per year. With a Master's Degree, the average salary increases to $69,732 per year. With a Doctorate Degree, that number becomes $84,396 per year. To give a personal example, the salary of my new job is a 30% increase to my previous job's salary. Again, that's not the main reason why I went to grad school, but the increase in salary is a blessing and it will allow me and my husband to afford more things.

Final words...
Although challenging and time consuming, I enjoyed grad school! I had supportive professors and helpful classmates. I learned many new skills from school courses and projects. I enjoyed the social events, networking events, and house parties. But most importantly, grad school properly prepared me for the career that I desire. If you are considering an advanced degree, I hope my article has provided helpful insight into what an advanced degree can do for you.

MonaLisa received both her Bachelor of Arts in Communication (2014) and Master of Health Administration (2018) from the University of Pittsburgh. Now that school is finally over, she is starting a new and exciting career in Healthcare Revenue Cycle at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

MonaLisa's previous article "9 steps to quitting your job for full-time grad school,"  is available on LinkedIn

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6/05/2018
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