12 Most Brainiac Benefits from Getting a Degree, Mid-Career

12 Most Brainiac Benefits from Getting a Degree, Mid-Career

Weeks away from graduating with a Masters degree — and needing a suitable excuse to turn away, briefly, from my thesis project — I decided to share the dozen of reasons I went back to college in my 40s. No sugar coating things: it was draining at times. And not just on me. This degree put my husband to the test, too.

Three years of graduate school imposed restrictions on our household budget as well as our schedules and reserves of patience and cooperation. But, it was worth it. Really, really worth it.

Here are just 12 of my reasons.

1. Earn more money

Workers with a Master’s degree earn more, regardless of their field, according to research from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. “Median earnings of those with a graduate degree in the field, irrespective of tenure, are an average of 38.3 percent higher than those who only possess a bachelor’s degree in the same field,” says this story in U.S. News and World Report.

2. Get promoted

No, a degree won’t guarantee a bigger title. But, data show that those with additional professional qualifications and certifications are more often viewed as being capable of greater responsibilities and management roles.

3. Transition to a whole new career

This was one of my main motivators. As a long-time journalist, I was very concerned about the future direction of the industry and the rapid cost cutting that was eroding the resources needed to produce quality journalism. Getting my Masters of Public Administration was one route to help me switch careers.

4. It’s not too late

Many good things come to those who wait to go back to school. The number of people age 40 and older heading off to grad school has more than doubled since 1987, according to the Council of Graduate Schools. As a group, seasoned students account for one in every four of those seeking a master’s or a Ph.D.

5. Inspire your children

One of my mantras to my elementary school aged boys is, “Never give up.” It means more when we actually do what we say.

6. Inspire yourself

It was no fun relearning geometry, calculus and quadratic equations 20 years after taking those classes the first time. Really. No. Fun. Yet, I had to do that in order to take the GRE and get accepted to my graduate program.

So, I did it. I got in. And, I even got an A in my graduate statistics program, which was the first class I took. I almost couldn’t believe it. That inspired me to believe I really did belong there.

7. Be healthier, more positive

People who have degrees are less likely to smoke or to be obese. They’re less prone to depression. And they’re more likely to exercise, according to this research, which discusses the non-financial benefits of a degree.

8. Maturity is an asset

You’ll likely do better than the younger students, according to several studies that looked at academic outcomes of “nontraditional” students — adult learners over age 25. What’s more, several professors of mine confessed they liked teaching us “old timers” more too, because of the life experience we add to class discussions.

9. Pride and self-respect

Completing a degree while attending to so many significant, simultaneous demands is a big deal. It just doesn’t happen without a ton of hard work and sacrifice. I love the way that Virginia Sullivan puts it in her blog post on this issue: “Know what you’re made of: Regardless of how organized you are, there will be days when you get by on pure grit. There will be days when you’re overwhelmed, but you must persevere. This will be your opportunity to show the world what you’re made of. Don’t give up.”

10. You’ll be truly interested in, and dedicated to, learning

People don’t go back to school when they are mid-career unless they know what they want and are willing to work for it. (Plus, the quest to balance crazy party weekends with term-paper deadlines ended years and years ago.)

11. Society gains, too

Adults with a college degree are more active citizens. They also vote more often, stay more aware of current events and report higher levels of volunteering in the community.

12. Gratitude for what happens as a result

When we mid-career learners finally finish our degrees — and climb out of the vat of overwhelming stress we voluntarily threw ourselves and our loved ones into some years earlier — most of us are really grateful we did it. Almost 90 in 100 of those with bachelor’s degrees agree the education had a positive impact in their lives, according to the research cited in #7. For those who got Master’s degrees, it was closer to 95 in 100!

Now back to that thesis. It’s due in just a few weeks…

What about your experience? Did you — or a loved one — wait to go back to school? Was it worth it? I’d love to hear about it, either way!

Photo credit: Big Stock Photos

Becky Gaylord


Becky worked as a reporter for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C.; Sydney, Australia; and Cleveland, Ohio for major publications including the New York Times, Salon.com, Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, and was Associate Editor of the Plain Dealer's Editorial Page before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC. The company helps clients improve their external relations and communication and increase their influence and impact. Becky blogs about that (a few other things) at Framing What Works.

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Thanks, Brian! I'll let you know how things go! 


#3 is definitely intriguing for me...but not for several years while the current job keeps me more than busy. #5 is also an excellent point; however, both of my daughters are already talking about pursuing their Masters degrees...so they are ahead of me!

Now, get back to work on that thesis.