There is no denying that earning a graduate degree can be exceptionally rewarding and fulfilling. All of the energy and passion applied to expand your knowledge and attain your advanced degree is well spent if it allows you to reach your career goals. But if you enter graduate school for the wrong reasons, you can end up wasting your time and most important your money.

Before you consider graduate school you need to first evaluate your personal goals and career interests and decide whether a graduate degree will really benefit you. Some people pursue graduate school because earning an advanced degree is the only way that they can reach certain positions. For example, you need a master's degree to become a counselor in a clinical or school setting and you need a doctorate to become a licensed psychologist. So do some research and consider what it is that you ultimately want to do. Will your bachelor degree suffice or must you get additional training? A good source to confirm typical occupational degree requirements is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some people earn graduate degrees to get jobs that typically don't require them so they can have an edge in an extremely competitive employment market. According to experts, a master's degree is slowly turning into the new bachelor's (which makes the value of a high school diploma almost obsolete). A four-year degree no longer promises a steady income for various reasons, including the fact that globalization and new technology have changed the workforce.

The recession has made the tight job market even worse. According to researchers from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, the economy will not fully stabilize until 2015. That means that until then, employers will most likely continue to give the best jobs to applicants who possess the highest level degrees and have specific sets of skills and training. Find out whether in your particular field, those most sought after positions are going only to people with graduate degrees.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average doctorate degree holders earn about $25,000 more than people with bachelor's, while those with master's make about $11,000 more than people who have earned only a bachelor's. A graduate degree can certainly help you find a higher paying job, but it won't guarantee that you will.

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