Will grad school make you wealthier?
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Money is a big factor when it comes to deciding whether grad school is for you. It makes itself heard in most aspects, from the application process (whether you need to take out a loan) up until after you graduate (whether it will bring in a higher future salary).

Three letters make up one of the biggest financial considerations around grad school: RoI

Return on Investment, or RoI for short, refers to whether that postgraduate qualification will result in a promotion, job opportunity and/or higher salary. You could even add intangible benefits to the equation as well.

Here are three tips on how you can evaluate whether your chosen grad school will result in the RoI you are looking for:

1. Find out how much debt you will incur

Unless you’re on a scholarship, grad school doesn’t come free. Everything adds up – from the application fee to your living expenses.

Going to grad school could mean loss of income from employment. Source: Alex Kotliarskyi/Unsplash

To find out how much your graduate degree will cost, use the net price calculator on your school or program’s website and try calling the school for extra details regarding teaching or research assistantship openings.

Then, factor in costs of living like rent, food, gas, car payment, insurance, etc. If you were working prior to grad school, there’s also loss of income from work to include.

A simple equation for the total cost goes: [Tuition fees] + [Living costs] + [Loss of income] – [Income from teaching or research assistantship]

2. Check out the projected hiring and salary trends 

Once you know how much grad school will set you back, it’s time to find out if you can recover these losses post-graduation.

Jobs and the salaries that come along with them depend on a range of factors. Economies fluctuate and political upheavals are common – this means hiring appetite will never be the same from one year to another, or even shorter than that.

For the prospective international student, knowing whether grad school will pay off heavily depends on the type of job and salaries they can secure after graduating.

For example, it pays to know the economic situation of the industry and country you are planning to apply to after earning your Masters. Similarly, finding out whether your PhD is in-demand or not can give you a good idea as to whether you’ll be jobless or not in future, and thus, whether you should even pursue a postgraduate in the first place.

Reports like the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)’s Corporate Recruiters Survey 2018, which analysed hiring trends among employers in several world regions, is a good starting point for your research.

3. Use this nifty calculator 

To find out how long it will take for your investment to pay off, Quartz at Work has built a nifty calculator to help you do just that. This tool allows you to crunch the numbers pretty comprehensively – including salary raises, loan rates, inflation, etc – using a detailed picture of your current and future financial situation.

The result is a graph that shows how your net worth is projected to grow with or without grad school.

Take note, however, that this is ultimately a projection and shouldn’t be taken literally. As this Forbes article advises, if your RoI for going vs not going is around US$100,000, you should be wary about applying, taking note of all the possible extra years of unemployment that could occur after grad school.

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