Are you anticipating college graduation this spring? Are you making plans to enter the ministry or the missions field, to continue your or to enter the marketplace? Now is the time to research, plan and prepare for the future.
As you wrestle with making decisions, here is a question: Do I need to attend graduate school?
Checking the angles
As 2022 unfolds, many things have changed in our world, especially in the professional world and in ministry. It’s challenging to decide with so many unknown factors. So in today’s economy, the decision to enter graduate school for a master’s or doctoral program should be considered from all angles.
Whatever the decision, it’s a mile marker in the journey of life. Why? Because it will make a significant impact on your time, finances, relationships, career and where you call home.
If an advanced degree is an option, consider the following course of action when making the decision.
As a believer in Christ, your decision-making process should be different from the world’s perspective, and the Bible is the foundation regarding education. Deuteronomy 6 is an excellent place to begin. Fathers were told to teach their children diligently and to love God with their heart, soul and strength.
Value of education
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul knew the importance of education. He told a crowd in Jerusalem he had been “brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3), a respected teacher.
Furthermore, after Paul’s mile marker moment on the Damascus road, he attended God’s “graduate school,” spending three years studying Scripture “through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:12) in Arabia (Gal. 1:11–24). While there Paul was involved in ministry, sharing the gospel with the Gentiles (Gal. 1:15–16); it was his calling.
The most crucial step is to place the decision before God, who says in His word: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” (Ps. 32:8).
He wants to counsel your heart with truth, and only He knows what your future holds. As believers we want to be wise stewards of the resources, time and gifts He has given us.
Prayer and fasting should become an integral part of the determining process.
Counsel also can come from those who have “been there, done that.” Some of the best wisdom and guidance come from the experiences of people who have gone through graduate school — a trusted professor or a respected member of your church perhaps.
Ask questions, listen to their recommendations and apply them to your situation.
Risks and rewards
A graduate degree comes with many rewards, as well as financial costs. Now would be a good time to bring out pen and paper, as it’s always helpful to see things in black and white. Some questions to ask include: Will the degree lead to higher income? Will it provide new opportunities over individuals without advanced degrees? Will there be a deeper understanding of specialized work and a sense of accomplishment? Will there be opportunities to study in a different country?
Next, consider the cons: What are the potential costs of school and living expenses? What is the time commitment, and how will this take away from family or work? What is the possibility of the degree not adding marketability beyond an undergraduate degree?
Here is one graduate’s advice: “Be sure you have a passion for the graduate program you are entering.” Many obtain undergraduate and graduate degrees only to realize it is not their preferred career.
As you consider the potential of entering graduate school, review requirements and have everything completed ahead of schedule. Don’t wait until the last minute.
Many programs have the same steps, but some things are unique for a specific course. Remember, in the age of technology, everything you need to get started is found on the school’s website. It’s also wise to connect with a school adviser.
Many students use co-op programs and internships to build a professional reputation. Some employers see the value of investing in a promising employee and will pay a student’s partial or full tuition for a graduate program if the employee commits to working for a certain number of years.
Help is available
Another option is to see about research assistantships. Also, some churches and faith-based ministries may assist through employment or scholarships.
Will you trust God and His wisdom to help you make this decision? One thing is sure when you seek God: He will direct your steps and open the doors of opportunity. Use the following verse as you pray for wisdom and direction: “Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me. For You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day” (Ps. 25:4–5).
The following articles provide excellent questions to consider