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Almost every respected professional in the world has faced a very old, very difficult question.

Should you take up a job right after your undergrad, and keep working indefinitely, or should you aim to study further, and put in the work needed to qualify for the best higher education programs in the world?

This is a complex dilemma because it requires strategic, long term thinking. To make the right decision, you need to think beyond the obvious short term gains and seeming security that a job brings you, and look to the huge long term advantages (both professional and personal) that a Master’s degree will confer on you.

Here are six quick facts that will convince you that applying to higher education programs abroad is a better strategic decision than working indefinitely and growing slowly in your career.

The world’s highest paying + most secure jobs require a high level of education.

The list of the top 10 jobs in the US, salary-wise, include a few healthcare roles (Physician / Dentist / Pharmacist), a few high-tech roles, and roles in corporate law. More niche roles are great, too: Rocket Scientist, Data Engineer, Oilfield Expert, Senior Diplomat – highly qualified and well paid – often, well north of $200,000 per year, even for a relatively junior professional.

All these have something in common over and above the fact that your monthly paycheck has a really large number of zeroes. It is almost impossible to break into any of these fields without an advanced Master’s Degree. This is clear factual proof that investing in your higher education helps you earn more in the medium term (not even the long term!) as compared to starting work right away. Even with a higher education loan to pay off, it still makes financial sense to wait.

The numbers don’t lie: A well chosen higher education degree earns you more money over your career

In this age of instant gratification, none of us likes to wait. It seems logical that, if you start working right away and start putting away some savings in the bank, you will have a head start over someone who “loses” two years of work by applying to and being selected for a Master’s program. However, let’s look a little more closely at the numbers.

First, the average Master’s degree holder in the US earns 25% more than the average Bachelor’s degree holder over their careers. And, if we’re comparing the yearly average salary of a Master’s grad in the US to the yearly average salary of an undergrad degree holder in India, the former is almost five to ten times the latter; there is no contest.

On average, it takes only two to five years after the end of a Master’s degree for a person to compensate for the money they missed out on earning when they were studying further and investing in their own future long term earning potential. And after that, everything is a net profit in comparison. Over the course of a lifetime, the difference between the two career paths is well over a million dollars. A million dollars just because you waited and made the right decision!

Investing in higher education helps you in every kind of career

Whether, in the long term, you want to work for someone, or to start your own thing, or to work in research, or to help people – a higher level degree always puts you in a better place to succeed than a basic undergrad degree does. There are many reasons for this: a wider, more diverse, more influential network is the prime driver of career growth, and a higher ed degree gives you that network. You also qualify for way more jobs and programs with a Master’s degree, both from a skill and from a maturity standpoint – you are just able to clear more screening criteria. Direct mentorship by professors is also something that happens more regularly with students in a more advanced degree, and this can lead to job offers that materialize over the course of a single phone call!

Geography: A Master’s degree abroad opens more doors than an undergrad degree from India

A higher education degree abroad almost works like a visa from a global power, but in the field of education. Armed with one of these, you can do high level work in pretty much any country in the world, and work on cutting edge advancements in your field just by virtue of having the educational background you do. The time saved is immense: if you want to start with a basic undergrad degree and work your way up to one of these career paths, it might take 5-10 additional years of learning the ropes and slowly rising in the organization.

Even more importantly, in this modern era of closing borders worldwide, and shrinking work visa quotas, it may be that, in the near future, a skilled degree abroad is the only sure way for you to lock down a high profile career abroad, and to avail of the professional and personal growth advantages that such a career path can give you. If you want to be able to work wherever you want, on work that fulfils you completely, investing in higher education now is the way to go, for sure.

It is difficult to come back to education after an extended job hiatus

If you go abroad now to study further, you can always choose to work in a job after that degree (indeed, most people do). However, the converse is not always true. For every year after your undergrad degree that you work in a job, it gets harder and harder to make yourself go back and acquire a Master’s degree or equivalent, even if you really want to.

There are many reasons for this: you get used to the security of a month end paycheck, however small; you are not able to spend the time you need to work on your Master’s applications after the daily grind of work and commutes; sometimes, you just cannot get back in the frame of mind you need to go back to school. It is clear that further education + job is a much better order of doing things (and much easier to do) than job + further education.

The financial burden of a Master’s degree isn’t really as heavy as it might seem

We have clearly established that the return on investment is much greater for an investment in higher education. Now, let’s look at the investment. There is a small opportunity cost because your post-undergrad job is out of the question for a couple of years. You can avail of multiple scholarships to finance your tuition fees in full or in part. Your remaining tuition fees and living costs can easily be financed through part time jobs on campus, or through long term loans that you can pay off at your leisure in the future. None of these investments are stressful; they are long and tedious sometimes, but your admissions counselors will guide you through the process. You will always be free to concentrate on what is important to you: getting the degree you need to make a difference in the world.

In conclusion, we’d like to leave you with an analogy. Would you rather climb a really high staircase upwards for a really long time, or work hard for a while to find a nearby elevator, and then sit back and relax while the elevator took you where you always wanted to go, but never knew how?

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