I’m wondering how other people on The Billfold have decided that going into debt for graduate…

If you’re looking at school as an investment, then improving your salary by $20,000 or so seems worthwhile. Check program job placement information very thoroughly, though. If a particular grad program doesn’t have a good placement record (or refuses to reveal that information), take a hard pass.

Also, consider the personal benefits. I’m drowning in debt from a grad academic program (I started before declining tenure/ full time professor job rates became a common news item.), but I really, truly enjoyed my program and did benefit from the skills that I learned, the books I read, the people I met, the job experience as a TA, etc. You should take these intangibles into account when you think about grad school. Also, will you enjoy the field that grad school will prepare you for more than your current field? If so, that is a huge intangible benefit that will pay dividends in your happiness and wellbeing. Don’t discount it when making your calculations. If not, think hard about that fact. If you go to grad school, it should be to get into a career you feel passionate about, not merely one that provides more money.

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