Jul 24

Hate Your Job? Go Back to School!

Β job

Recently, several of my friends have decided to go back to school. They aren’t happy at their jobs and are feeling “stuck” and undervalued. When talking with these friends, I can really sympathize with where they’re “at”. A few years ago I was in the same place.

Two years after I finished college I decided to go back to grad school. At the time I was living and working in Boston at a non-profit health care organization as a program coordinator. I really loved my boss and my co-workers, but I was feeling kind of “blah” with my life.

Mid-twenties crisis? Maybe.

I felt like I needed a change and I thought that going back to school would be a good career move. I mean a masters degree gives you more job opportunities and better pay, right? Umm, wrong. So wrong! As Mitch pointed out in his post Can a Master’s Degree Yield a Negative Return?, many degrees don’t actually yield you more money. But they may yield you more debt!

That being said, it wasn’t a surprise to me that I wouldn’t be making the “big bucks” when I finished my masters. I knew what I was “getting myself into” and I chose to get my masters degree in spite of the fact that it wouldn’t yield me a big return. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t do a very good cost benefit analysis when it comes to quitting their jobs and going back to school. Usually by the time they start thinking about going back to school, they’re already miserable at their job and ready to jump at the first school that accepts them.

Here’s what the “I’m going back to school because I hate my job” cycle often looks like:

  • I hate my job
  • I’m going to go back to school
  • Going back to school will give me a more job opportunities (keep rationalizing the decision!)
  • Tuition costs how much? (financial constraints are a bummer)
  • I’ll just take out more student loans to pay for school and expenses
  • Woo hoo, I graduated, now I can look for my dream job
  • My new “dream” job isn’t any better than my last job and actually pays less (oh crap)
  • I now have more student loan debt (I’m not sure how I’m going to pay it)
  • I’m more miserable than I was before and now I have to stay at the job I hate to pay off the student loans

Here’s the solution, are you sitting down? This is a game changer… Don’t go back to school. Get a new job!

Think carefully about why you want to go back to school. If you’re only going back because you hate your job, want to avoid the workforce for another few years, or aren’t sure what career path to follow, maybe you should look for a new job instead. You might just find that you enjoy your new job and don’t really “need” or want to go back to school after all.

I’m not saying going back to school is always a bad idea. More education is never a bad thing as long as you can afford it. If you can’t afford it without student loans, I’d suggest weighing your options carefully and doing your due diligence before you quit your job. A higher degree isn’t always the “answer”.

Hate your job? Want to go back to school for other reasons? Love your job but need another degree to get promoted?

Image: Tax Credit.net


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  1. E.M.

    I always wondered if not going back for my Master’s was a good choice. I loved college, I love learning, but most jobs in the field I studied don’t require a Master’s unless you want to be on the research side of things, which I didn’t. Tthe idea of more student loan debt made me think twice, so I figured I’d go out into the workforce and see what happens.

    I am not all that thrilled with my job, but I have been taking tests that will hopefully open up other opportunities elsewhere. I do feel “stuck,” but if we are to move in a year or so, it doesn’t make much sense for me to leave my current job and go somewhere else for 6-9 months. I don’t think it’s a good idea to go back to school just to avoid working, though. You might very well find yourself worse off than before. Good advice!

    1. KK

      Thanks πŸ™‚ I think it’s a good choice if you’re not sure exactly what you want to do, or otherwise don’t have the money to pay for school with cash (and will have to take out crazy loans).

  2. Mrs PoP @Planting Our Pennies

    I think you’ve definitely nailed down a pretty common thought process when it comes to going back to school. Most people just remember school as being something fun that they were pretty good at, so why not do it some more!

    1. KK

      I definitely wanted to go back to school a number of times, thankfully I’ve been able to “talk myself off the ledge”. I loved school and would probably be a full-time student indefinitely if I had the money to do so.

  3. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

    I definitely agree that people should put more thought into going back to school. I went back to school but only went part-time so I was still working full time. It cut down on my student loans, but it was always very tiring. Somepeople who also went back to school regret it…mostly because of the debt and some because when they graduated, they stayed in the same job as the degree did not help them get a higher paying job. I do have to say that if your “dream job” is in a certain field that requires an advanced degree…I guess that is your only choice.

    1. KK

      As you said, If it’s your “dream job” and you have to go back to be promotion, that’s one thing, but if you’re just going back to avoid work that’s definitely another. Going back to school when you’re working is really smart. It cuts down on loans and keeps your resume current.

  4. Kraig - Young Cheap Living

    Agreed on the don’t go back to school advice. When I first read the title of this post, I thought, “What??”.

    So glad you aren’t advocating for doing into serious debt in hopes of fixing a career situation. πŸ™‚ I’d add one thing to your list of suggestions and that would be consider starting your own gig. That’s an option as well, although it isn’t easy and is scary as heck (I’m dealing with that now).

    Take care,

    1. KK

      Provocative title drew you in huh? πŸ˜‰ I’d never tell someone to go back to school if they couldn’t afford it. Most people have enough problems paying off undergrad debt without grad school debt added on πŸ˜‰

  5. Micro

    I definitely agree that changing jobs should be the first outlet if you are unhappy with your current position. I am going back to school because I wanted to not inadvertently close any doors. My current job would pay me 20k more a year if I have a masters so I know I can earn more in the long run even with the loans.

    1. KK

      Wow that’s a pretty big pay bump. Sounds like it’s probably a good idea to go back to school as long as the loans aren’t insane.

  6. Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa

    I love this advice!! So many people make this mistake and a minor student loan problem becomes a lifetime of headaches.

    1. KK

      Thanks Michael. Lifetime of headaches is so right!

  7. DC @ Young Adult Money

    This is a big reason I’m hesitant to get my MBA. I’m worried I will spend a whole lot of money and it won’t end up being worth the time and $ sacrifice it takes to go. I think grad school can be a good way to pivot into a new field, but caution should be taken before going for sure.

    1. KK

      Most of the time the MBA has a pretty good return (as long as you continue working in the business world) from what I know, but that’s not to say there aren’t MBAs who have gotten the degree and regretted it. Worth considering the cost and the benefits for sure.

  8. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    Love this, KK! So many people, as you pointed out, just don’t think long-term before jumping into a Masters’ program. There are other options out there sometimes, especially if you don’t have a specific career goal in mind. Great post!

    1. KK

      If you don’t know exactly what you want to do, a masters is often a terrible idea. Just because I love knitting doesn’t mean I should pursue a masters degree in textiles-a big waste of time and money.

  9. Thomas | Your Daily Finance

    Yeah that going back to school can be a disaster. If you not happy with your job you first need to figure out why!!! Is it the job, the company or you just not wanting to work cause you having other problems. I have seen people hate their job because of their boss or just because mommy and daddy want them to be an accountant and they hate math. Going back and getting a masters isnt going to solve the hate. Changing jobs works if it was the company that was the issue in some way. I agree going back to school is not always the right/best solution.

    1. KK

      Good points Thomas. There are so many reasons that people are unhappy in their jobs. Figuring out the reason, not going back to school, is a huge part of finding the job that will make you happy.

  10. Nick @ ayoungpro.com

    I agree!

    1. KK

      Thanks Nick.

  11. Brian @ Luke1428

    “I’m not saying going back to school is always a bad idea.” In my wife’s case it was a must. Moving from math education into accounting required her to take some necessary coursework to get her CPA. It was a move we thought about for some time and considered the benefits and risks ahead of time. Now, in her new career, she has incredible income potential compared to her career as a teacher. Best part is she loves it a 100 times more over teaching.

    1. KK

      Sometimes it’s actually a great idea (sounds like that’s the case for your wife). For me I couldn’t have been promoted without the masters, so it did actually make sense (and it got me a promotion within my field).

  12. Budget and the Beach

    It’s funny but I just had that same thought as I totaled up all the PF bloggers who went to graduate school who are now in a mountain of debt. There is a high number. I think my friends that have gotten MBA’s have all seen a ROI, but I often wonder about everyone else. I started down that road…sort of. I started taking classes to become a life coach, till I realized how much debt I would go into doing that. At that point I would need a life coach due to financial stress! Seemed like a vicious circle. Instead I sort of reinvented my career and started doing things on the side I was more passionate about AND started earning money from that. I’m happy with my decision. I’m not saying don’t ever go to school either, but think about it…long and hard.

    1. KK

      An MBA seems like a good choice for many people, if I’d realized how interested I am in business and money I might have done that myself. I really like it that you reinvented your career that you were passionate about and started making money doing it. That’s something I’m trying to do now.

  13. Rachel@Mobilligy

    I completely agree with this post!! I went to school for ultrasound and wasn’t very happy in the field, so I pretty heavily contemplated going back to school for something different. But then I was scared that I’d go back to school, go even further into student loan debt, and then realized I didn’t like my new career path as much as I was hoping.

    So instead of going back to school, I started looking for a new job in a completely different field. Now I’m a social media manager – a completely different career than I was in previously, and I didn’t have to go back to school to get this job. I love my job, I’m so happy I switched, and I didn’t end up in more student loan debt to do it.

    I don’t think that people realize that, in many cases, you don’t have to go back to school in order to switch career paths (unless, of course, you’re going into something specialized like nursing or accounting). There’s really no reason not to apply for other jobs in different fields to see what opportunities come your way. You never know: maybe you’ll find something you love and can spare yourself the student loan debt!

    1. KK

      Ultrasound tech t social media manager, that’s a big change πŸ™‚ I’m so happy for you that you love your job. Imagine if you’d stayed doing something you didn’t like just because you had that degree! Like you said, some careers required a specific degree (nursing, etc.) but many others don’t. Why not try those before taking on all that debt for a new degree?

  14. Mo' Money Mo' Houses

    I’ve been thinking about going back to school but I feel like I just got out. We’ll see how the job hunt goes first I think.

    1. KK

      The good thing about job hunting is it’s free (well aside from the suit you might need to interview). If it doesn’t work out school will always be there (and they’ll be ready to take your money ;-))

  15. Connie @ Savvy With Saving

    Great post, I know too many people who have gone back to school for the wrong reasons. It’s not always the industry you’re unhappy with, it might just well be the job or the people. You really have to consider what you want to do, what you will be going back to school for to do that, how much it will cost, and what your ROI will be.

    1. KK

      Sadly, I think most folks know at least a few people who have gone back to school for the wrong reasons and then regretted it. ROI is really important, esp. if you go to an expensive school.

  16. Mike

    Nothing beats your experience, network, original ideas, and reputation when it comes to getting a promotion or new job. Expensive masters degrees fall somewhere way behind those. Great article.

    1. KK

      Thanks Mike. I think some people think that the expensive masters will take the place of experience or reputation, which isn’t usually the case.

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