It’s a good idea to look at your educational investments the same way a business person would. If I spend X amount of money getting a graduate degree, what will my eventual return on that investment be?
While the field of education is several large steps removed from what most people think of as “corporate America,” that same calculation ultimately applies. While educators with a standard Bachelor’s degree are villainously underpaid, there are educational routes that can help alleviate that problem.
Getting a doctorate degree is one of them. In this article, we take a look at how you view your graduate coursework as an investment.
Start by Understanding How Much it Will Cost You
Regardless of eventual raises and increased opportunities, it is still important to understand the yield potential. The more you spend getting your graduate degree, the less you stand to gain from it financially.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Will I need to take out a loan to pay for this? Loans increase the overall cost of your education because they will also require you to make interest payments down the line. Think of it the same way you would a downpayment on your home. Yes, if you make a large downpayment, there will be less money in your bank account today. However, if you are able to knock a few thousand dollars off your eventual mortgage, it will save you significantly more than that in the long run. It’s the same thing as getting your graduate degree. If you can pay for some or all of it in cash, it will go a long way toward improving your degree’s ROI.
- Will my school district help pay for this? The answer to this question could have a significant impact on how you approach our last point. Some school districts will pay for some or all of their teachers’ graduate school work. Obviously, this has an enormous impact on how financially feasible your degree will ultimately be.
- How am I going to leverage this degree? Graduate degrees in education can open doors to administrative or even university-level jobs. These positions often come with much higher salaries than people typically associate with education. However, graduate school does not always take teachers down this path. If you decide to stay in the classroom, you will most likely still get a raise, but it won’t compare to the increase you could see by pivoting into administration.
Keep in mind that the longer you have left at the job, the better your ROI will be. That’s not to discourage older educators from going back to school. Obviously, the sort of people reading this article can mostly agree that there is more to learning than profitability.
However, it is still worth keeping in mind. If you are a twenty-something teacher waiting to pull the trigger on graduate school, there are plenty of good reasons to make the leap now.
Below, we will take a look at some of the benefits that can come from getting a graduate degree in education.
In most states, teachers receive raises in the form of small annual “bumps,” or “steps.” The longer you teach, the more money you make. While these figures never reach extravagant numbers, they can provide teachers with a comfortable living as they progress through their careers.
Unlike in corporate jobs, these steps aren’t negotiable— at least not at the individual level. Teacher unions will advocate for raises and benefit increases, but those negotiations take place slowly and at a district-wide level.
If you want to secure an increased salary for yourself the only way to do it independently is through graduate school. Most districts offer one raise for teachers who get their master’s degree and then another when they get their PhD.
Usually, these raises won’t inspire a trip to the Lexus dealership, but they do add up over time.
Getting your PhD also improves your standing in the academic community. At this level, you will be more eligible to publish in academic journals and conduct research. Doctorates are also usually required by most universities when they hire teachers.
If you want to pivot into higher education, getting your PhD is an important, and ultimately, mandatory step.
Gain New Skills
Getting your PhD can also simply result in a significant skill increase. If you have been teaching for ten years, the information they are giving teacher candidates is almost certainly quite a bit different than what you learned at university.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. It certainly doesn’t mean that you will get your doctorate and then completely re-invent yourself as an educator. It does mean that you will be given the chance to learn, and change, and grow.
Ultimately, that is the constant responsibility of educators everywhere. One way or another, you need to look for opportunities to be a student yourself.
The problem with viewing education from a business lens is that the two things are conceptually different. Running a business is about growth— a concept that doesn’t really exist in education. As a teacher, you don’t improve because it positively impacts your bottom line.
You do it because you sincerely care about your students, and you want to give them the very best instruction that you can. That’s something that can get lost when you start looking at your degree from an investment point of view.
Most teachers who get their doctorate will eventually turn a profit on the money they put in. That profit won’t be yacht-worthy but it will have a positive impact on their financial life.
However, it’s important to remember that even without the potential for monetary reward or improved social regard improving as a teacher is always worthwhile. If you are interested in getting your doctorate, you should do it. Find the most affordable way to accomplish your goal, and leverage your new skills to help improve your student’s education.