Before you make a big financial decision, like buying a certain model car or applying for a mortgage, you want to know you’re getting a good deal. You want the benefits of your purchase to outweigh—or at least match—the costs. You want to make sure that whatever you’re considering buying is worth the money you’re paying, and the time you’re putting into the process.

Deciding to pursue a graduate education is no different. If you’re considering earning a Master of Science in Computer Science (MS in CS), you want to know it’s the right choice for you, and before you get halfway through the program. You’ve probably found yourself asking a lot of questions about the types of job titles that are common for graduates, the kind of money you’ll earn with your degree, the skills a program can equip you with, and the work it will allow you to perform.

Ultimately, you are asking all of these questions to help you decide: Is earning a master’s degree in computer science worth the investment of time, money, and effort that you will have to put into earning it?

Whether or not a degree is “worth it” will depend largely on how you define the value you hope to gain from having earned the degree. This value could be quantifiable, in the form of a certain salary, or it could be subjective, in the form of a certain job title or career path, or both.

Whatever your motivations, it’s essential that you have a firm understanding of the outcomes you expect from a degree before you enroll. Otherwise, it’s impossible to judge whether or not earning the degree is the right decision for you and your career.

Is a Graduate Degree the Right Career Decision for Me?

Before embarking on the journey of earning any graduate degree, it’s important for prospective students to do a bit of homework to make sure that the degree they’re considering will actually help them achieve their goals. Otherwise, you might earn a degree that does not get you where you want to be—in which case, earning the degree would not be worth the investment.

To make sure that earning a graduate degree is, in fact, the best next step for you to take, you should ask yourself a number of questions, including:

  • What is my motivation for wanting to earn this degree?
  • Will earning my graduate degree make it easier to reach my personal and career goals?
  • What type of educational experience am I hoping to have while pursuing my graduate degree?
  • Does the format of the degree fit my lifestyle? Is the degree program residential, online, or some combination of the two?
  • Can I afford all of the costs that earning a graduate degree will entail, including tuition, books, fees, and transportation?

Once you have a clear sense of your motivations and expectations, you will better be able to determine whether or not earning a graduate degree is the best next step for you and your career.

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