Someone recently asked me if getting an advanced degree is a good career move. Having spent the past 18 years in the recruiting industry, I’ve been asked numerous career-related questions, but this one resonates with me, not only because I have an advanced degree, but because of the circumstances surrounding my higher education. It’s an interesting story.

Here’s a little background – I graduated in 1986 with a BA in Business Administration. Upon graduation, I didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to do. A couple of my friends were looking into taking the GMAT and going on to grad school, so I tagged along. I ended up taking the GMAT, doing pretty well, and went on to complete my MBA right out of undergrad.

It sounds like a fine move, and it was, but what I learned from the process is that just about everyone else in the program got more out of it than I did.

I had no objective and no set reason for getting an MBA. My sole career experience to that point was waiting tables at Pizza Hut (and yes, I still like their pizza). Most of my classmates were coming into the program knowing they needed an MBA to get to the next level in their careers. That is the right point in a career to look into getting an advanced degree. That is when it’s a good career move. Looking back, I’m still glad I got the degree but I lament the fact that I could have gotten way more out of it both from a learning standpoint as well as career standpoint.

There are some careers and educational tracks that require you to go straight from undergrad into grad school. That in and of itself is an objective. When considering an advanced degree, make sure you do your research – both on why you want it, and which program is the best for you. Advanced degrees cost a lot a time, money, and commitment, and you want to make sure it’s the right decision for you.

If you’re contemplating an advanced degree, your best next step is to learn how continued education impacts your particular career track.  Plot it out so get the most out of it as possible. If you have a good objective and have done your homework, getting an advanced degree is a smart and impactful career move.

Chris Ohlendorf
Chris Ohlendorf is the Chief Talent Officer at Versique Executive Search and Consulting, and McKinley Consulting. He has over 17 years of experience in the consulting and recruiting industries, and can be reached at cohlendorf@versique.com. Learn more about UST’s Graduate Business Career Services office.