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Going Back to School at 30

By Kayla McCormack · December 14, 2023 · 7 minute read

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Going Back to School at 30

Returning to school can help you advance in your current job, open you up to new professional opportunities, and increase your salary. But those potential benefits don’t come without costs.

If you’re thinking about going back to school at 30 (or any age), it’s a good idea to consider what you hope to gain out of more education, and whether it may increase your earning potential or improve your job (and overall life) satisfaction. You’ll then want to factor in how much the program will cost and how you’ll pay for it.

There’s no one simple formula to determine whether or not going back to school is worth it, but these tips can help you make an informed decision.

Determining Whether Going Back to School Is Worth It

Once you’re clear about what program you’d like to pursue and have a list of schools to consider, you may want to ask yourself the following:

•   Will the degree help me in my career path?

•   Is this degree necessary to continue on my career path?

•   Will this degree increase my job and overall life satisfaction?

•   Will my investment in this degree be worth the cost?

Here’s a look at how you can answer each one of these questions.

Will This Degree Help Me in My Career Path?

When going back to school as an adult, it’s important to position yourself for continued growth based upon the career progress you’ve made to date. Sometimes, your continuing education of choice will take you further on the same career path you’ve already established. Other times, you will be broadening your education to branch out into complementary fields.

Talk to Trusted Colleagues

To make sure that the program you’re choosing will help you to accomplish your career goals, consider talking to people whose judgment you trust, including those who have pursued the path you’re considering.

Review Linkedin

Another resource that might be worth checking out is LinkedIn. You can search the profiles of people who work for companies you admire or who are in a job position you’d like for yourself. What educational credentials have they listed? If they have a graduate degree, which one? Does this mesh with what you have in mind?

Recommended: 6 Ways to Save Money for Grad School

Evaluate Career Opportunities

Sometimes, of course, obtaining additional education is necessary to fulfill your career goals. This is true if you want to become a doctor, dentist, nurse, or lawyer. In other cases, you may not necessarily need additional education to get a job in a particular field, but you might need further education to rise up the career ladder, get a significant increase in pay, or work for a particularly prestigious company.

Obtaining an MBA, for instance, can provide you with skills that will suit you well in various fields. It can also position you to take on new career positions and boost your overall pay.

Is This Degree Necessary to Continue on My Career Path?

Sometimes, of course, obtaining additional education is necessary in order to fulfill your career goals. This is true if you want to become a doctor or a dentist, a nurse or a lawyer. And, in other cases, you may not necessarily need additional education to get a job in a particular field, but you might aspire to work for a company that requires further education from its professionals.

Obtaining an MBA, for instance, can provide you with skills that will suit you well in various fields. And companies are very interested in hiring MBA graduates: After a hiring slump due to the Covid-19 pandemic, companies planning to hire MBAs in 2021 has rebounded to the same level as pre-pandemic, according to The Graduate Management Admission Council . In other words, not only can getting an MBA increase your skill set, it also may set you up for greater career and financial success down the line.

Will This Degree Increase My Job and Overall Life Satisfaction?

Any time you invest significant resources into a decision, such as going back to school, you probably have desired outcomes in mind. If you’re thinking about going to college to finish your degree (or for the first time) or going to grad school, you may be hoping to receive a promotion or get a better or more satisfying job, which is reasonable. But, it’s also important to consider whether those accomplishments will really make you happier.

A lot of the things in work that make us happy are intangible: a work culture and community that aligns with your values, work-life balance, or a boss you work well with. Having said that, you might need an advanced degree to get into companies and positions that provide these essentials.

Keep this in mind when deciding if going back to school is the right decision to make.

Will My Investment in This Degree Be Worth the Cost?

To determine the answer to this question, you’ll want to try to calculate what your financial return on education (ROEd) might be. To do this, you’ll first need to research the salary potential for someone with the degree you’re considering. You can then look at the costs involved to determine if, and when, the investment will likely pay off.

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, workers aged 25 to 34 with bachelor’s degrees earn, on average, 55% percent more than those who completed high school; those with master’s or higher degrees earn around 21% more than those with bachelor’s degrees.

How to Finance Going Back to School as an Adult

If you decide going back to school is worth the cost, the next step is to figure out how to pay for the program of your choice.

Explore Private Scholarships

First, you can conduct a scholarship search and explore foundations and organizations that may provide funding to you based upon your professional credentials, your community, religious affiliation, and/or ethnicity, etc. Also, you could check to see if your employer offers tuition reimbursement or any scholarship or grant programs that can benefit you.

Federal Financial Aid

It’s also a good idea to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). This will give you access to financial aid, including grants, scholarships, work-study, and federal student loans. If you’re looking into grad school, keep in mind that graduate or professional students are typically considered independent students for the purposes of completing the FAFSA form. This means you generally are not required to provide parent information.

Grants and scholarships are a form of gift aid and do not need to be paid back. Federal student loans need to be repaid, but come with benefits such as income-driven repayment plans and forgiveness programs.

Private Student Loans

If financial aid isn’t enough to cover the cost of going back to school, you might look into getting a private student loan. These are available through private lenders, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Loan limits vary from lender to lender, but you can often get up to the total cost of attendance for an undergraduate or graduate program. Interest rates vary but borrowers who have strong credit generally qualify for the lowest rates.

Keep in mind, though, that private loans may not offer the borrower protections — like income-based repayment plans and deferment or forbearance — that automatically come with federal student loans.


💡 Quick Tip: Master’s degree or graduate certificate? Private or federal student loans can smooth the path to either goal.

Refinancing Existing Student Loans

If you’re heading back to school and have existing student loans from your undergraduate degree, refinancing might allow you to qualify for a lower interest rate. This can either help you pay off the loan faster and/or decrease how much you pay each month. You can also lower your monthly payments by refinancing for a longer loan term. However, this will result in paying more interest overall.

You can refinance private or federal student loans. It’s important to note that when you refinance federal student loans with a private lender, you forfeit certain federal benefits, such as forbearance and forgiveness programs.

What Is Student Loan Entrance Counseling?

If you plan to go back to school as an adult and take out federal student loans, keep in mind that all federal borrowers must go through student loan entrance counseling. This is a short, online course that is designed to help ensure students understand the responsibilities and requirements that come with borrowing student loans. It highlights the terms and conditions of borrowing a loan, and also emphasizes borrower rights.

The federal government conducts student loan entrance counseling online. You can get details on the course by logging into your account on the Federal Student Aid website.

The Takeaway

When evaluating whether or not going back to school is worth the cost, you’ll want to factor in things like your career goals, the anticipated job market after graduation, typical program costs, and average salaries for the career you are pursuing with the degree.

Going back to school is a personal choice. While it typically comes with added expenses, you may decide that the potential returns make it well worth the investment.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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