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Have you ever wondered what a graduate degree could do for your career? Or whether it would be possible to return to the college lifestyle without racking up too much (more) student debt?

The decision to return to higher education after you get a bachelor’s degree can be difficult. You may have already entered the work force and are afraid of taking a year off from earning while simultaneously taking out student loans to cover your costs. Those are legitimate fears. After all, the lifetime cost of debt is staggering just with undergraduate student loans. Grad school can be more expensive and harder to finance at low interest rates, particularly if you don’t have good credit. (If you’re not sure where you stand, you can get two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, from Credit.com.)

If you are trying to decide if going back to school for another degree makes sense for you, we’ve got three signs you should consider graduate school.

1. You Want to Change Careers

If you are unhappy not just at your job, but in your field, you may want to consider applying for graduate school. Getting a new degree, though not always necessary to making a career change, can help you on the path toward a new career. As more adults are realizing that they do not want to remain at their first job from college all the way through retirement, higher education can expose you to what’s needed for a career in a new field. By returning to school, you can learn the necessary skills, make connections and obtain internships or other work experience.

2. You Love Learning

Maybe you crave new information, miss the educational lifestyle or just want to meet other people similarly hungry for knowledge. Graduate school can be perfect for those who love learning, even outside of a career. The experience can allow you to delve into a topic you are passionate about, give you the opportunity to conduct research or write a thesis or dissertation. Many graduate-level students are even able to teach classes and learn through that experience.

If you’re considering returning to school because you love learning, but don’t have a specific career ambition, you may want to consider courses at a community college or technical school where you may be able to find classes that have lower per-credit costs and don’t require you to take time off from your day job. Also, if your love of learning is the only thing driving you back to school, evaluate whether taking on debt is worth the enjoyment. You could also find educational enrichment at the local library, at free lectures and community events sponsored by a nearby college, or even with free college courses offered online.

3. You Need a Higher Degree to Move Up

Some professions actually require a graduate degree or even higher to begin working in the industry or to move to a higher salary level in your field. Whether it is necessary or out of a desire to add more skills your resume, get promoted more quickly or increase your salary potential, graduate school may help your career.

Always do your research first, however — you may not actually need a degree to move up. Sometimes a certification you can get via night classes can help take you to the next step in your industry. And if your company offers it, you may be able to get some tuition assistance for a program in your field. Many companies see this perk as a way to retain highly valued employees.

If you are lost, don’t know what else to do with your time or feel outside pressure, further education might not be the best idea for you at this time. Furthermore, if you aren’t sure how you will prepare your personal finances for graduate school, you’re probably not ready. Before you make such an important decision, consider how you will make use of a new degree.

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