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KTWBE's avatar

When is the right time to attend grad school? Is there one?

Asked by KTWBE (764 points ) November 4th, 2010

Dear Flutherbies,

I’m a college graduate who has long dreamed of being a high school English teacher. It’s my passion—to impart the same love of and excitement from literature that past English teachers and professors gave to me. Each of them was so fiery about what they loved that it rubbed off, and my already prodigious bibliophilia grew into a career aspiration. Surprisingly, I didn’t major in English because I thought a more “practical” major (in my case, journalism) would serve me better. Midway through my senior year, though, I knew without a doubt that I never, ever wanted to be a journalist: years of slaving away to the paper had drained my soul of any joy in news.

I’m young, married, happily (and gainfully!) employed, and keen on starting a family within a few years’ time. My problem is this: is it financial suicide to consider attending grad school, even part-time, when I have a well-paying job that I really do love? This position is everything administrative that I adore; the company is fantastic; the industry is guaranteed steady (healthcare/geriatric care); the people are sweet and fun and all just good folk; I make enough money to support my husband and myself; and they would be happy to have me forever. Do I want this, or do I want to spend boatloads of money on more schooling to enter a profession that a) pays in breadcrumbs if at all and b) is hardly in demand anywhere?

I’m not asking for psychological insight. I know that I love English, love literature, and love kids. I’d be a great teacher. My question here is, is there a more sensible track between the two choices presented here? Employment and stability in a position that I love and am immensely grateful for, or creative fulfillment in an educational track that won’t necessarily guarantee work?

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12 Answers

janbb's avatar

When you know what you want to do and don’t have too many other commitments in your life that will make it difficult. Having a family can make grad school a grind. As far as your needs specifically, it is hard to advise you. Maybe you should keep the job you love and start grad school part time and see how you like the courses.

One thing to consider is that teaching is often a good career to be in while raising a family unless your current job is very family-friendly as well.

iamthemob's avatar

I went at 25. I’m going back at 32. I would love to go back for more if time and money permit. There is absolutely no age limit – only time and financial limits.

@janbb‘s part time solution is generally the best (but busiest) of both worlds.

nikipedia's avatar

Speaking as someone who is in grad school and can only hope to someday have a job, I say if you have a good thing going, stick with it. The grass might seem greener but grad school is a lot of agony and it sounds like in your case maybe a lot of financial hardship as well.

wundayatta's avatar

Do as much as possible before you have kids.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

If you want to go to grad school, then you should do that regardless of job prospects or aspirations afterward. That is, if you want the education for its own sake, then pursue that. If you want to be a teacher and have to go to grad school to do that, then make plans to attend grad school so that you can further that ambition. (I presume that like most other forms of schooling you can do this online, part-time, at night, etc., while you keep your “day job”.)

Keep the day job. Unless and until you find a way to be a teacher (with or without the grad school degree) as your day job, and then transition to that if you still want to.

Now, if you like the job you already have, the company itself, the money and security that come with it, and still want to teach, you can still do that: you can be a private tutor, you can do tons of volunteer work related to teaching, both days, evenings, weekends, whatever suits your schedule. Your company more than likely (as many do) offers or seeks out “community service” work that you can volunteer to take on. (My company sponsors a noontime reading program with a local grammar school, in which I participated one year. You could run that program and do it daily—as one of our employees does.)

You could probably even offer remedial reading, writing and presentation classes within your own company, to people that you already work with.

BarnacleBill's avatar

It sounds like you may have idealized teaching, having no experience in teaching. Many who love teaching find the reality of the bureaucracy hard to bear. I love history and have been told I should teach it, but having put two children through both public and private schools, I have come to the realization that loving a subject is not enough to be able to teach it.

A practical consideration is, does your husband earn enough money for you to take on debt and reduced income? Can you live on less money? That part you can practice now; try banking a significant portion of what you make, and see how you adjust to it.

SundayKittens's avatar

@BarnacleBill Once again, I am in agreement.

But…if you decide you really want to do it, remember that there are ways to teach without having to be a classroom teacher (which can very quickly suck out any passion for a subject you might have).

BoBo1946's avatar

Best time…right after you get your undergraduate degree! If you wait, a job will get into the way or something!

camertron's avatar

There are a number of excellent books and motivational speakers who have said that people who don’t take risks never get far in life. People are afraid to leave the security of what they already have, forgetting that many of the world’s most successful people were the ones who risked it all (Rockefeller, Ghandi, Obama, etc). Risk, however, is a relative thing which can be overcome by desire to do something. If you really want something, want it so badly that it becomes an obsession and then a fact, then not even high risk can stop you from getting there. Napoleon Hill wrote a book in the 1930s called Think and Grow Rich which delineates more precisely the things I’m trying to say here. His book is geared towards making money, but he readily states that the principles he describes can be used to be successful at anything.

So I say go for it! If you’ve always dreamed of teaching and grad school seems like the best way to get there, then don’t hold yourself back because you’re afraid of losing the career you have. If you desire it, you’ll make it.

One last remark: One of the hardest things to do in life is making decisions. People often find they’re happier once they make a decision, for better or for worse. Just the act of making the decision is a relief in and of itself. Just sayin’...

KTWBE's avatar

@BarnacleBill I’m well aware that teaching isn’t ideal—my father-in-law has taught high school and college English for 40 years and my dad was a band teacher for years as well. I heard all of the awesomely sweet stories and all of the I’m-quitting-tomorrow-after-pulling-out-all-of-my-hair stories. The reason that I want to teach is because kids a) don’t know how to communicate well anymore and b) don’t like reading. Both of those can be learned with a good book and an inspiring class.

MeinTeil's avatar

After graduation.

cmomoCPA's avatar

There will never be a RIGHT TIME. Do it while you still have the passion for it. If you don’t you’ll wake up and find out those “I should’s” became “I should have”.

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