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Masters degree - is it worth it for us?


againstthegrain
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A masters degree will cost us between 25-30k. Teaching adjunct for the next 9-10 years of homeschooling at even one course per semester means $45-50k income, paying off college debt and building a quality resume for after homeschooling job prospects of teaching at the community college level. A masters degree locally will easily get me in to teach some courses (I realize this varies by area, our area is solid masters = adjunct positions pretty easily).

 

I am finishing my Bachelors this December and have have been able to balance life. If I hunt I can find a weekend job in my field now that will pay about the same annually as an adjunct position (without having the masters degree or the debt with it). 

 

 

I need some criticism on the matter. Why should I or should I not pursue the masters degree?

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If it's a program you would enjoy, and if teaching is your "thing," I'd go for it. Just keep in mind that a lot can change by the time you get there, so do it for yourself first and foremost.

 

I've been an adjunct since 1998, and it's one of my passions. Because of funding and other issues, I likely will never be full-time, but I plan to continue for many years.

 

I can take any class offered for free, and there are many professional development opportunities. At this point I'm eligible for self-paid health insurance and retirement savings plans. I also get free software, discounts on computers, and various other small benefits.

 

The downside? Community college teaching can be discouraging. I've had sections where 1/2 of them either stopped coming entirely and/or failed because of not turning in homework. You can get some pretty rough characters and even entire classes that will turn against you. I've had to call security to have students removed, and I've had students threaten me physically.

 

Adjuncts can also be treated like commodities versus individuals. I left one college over six months ago after my dean repeatedly lied to me. She has a lot of other issues and the adjuncts were leaving in droves anyway, many like me with 10+ years. My current dean is nearly hands-off other than a few administrative matters through her assistant, but at least her assistant is responsive.

 

It's also tough being out of the mainstream communication channels. Some six years ago I went to look at the schedule just before Christmas to see how enrollment was going and saw that my department had been dissolved. I knew that the department head was moving up into an administrative position, but no one told me that all the sections I had signed a preliminary contract for were gone! Thankfully I got one section in another department at the last minute, but that program was/is on the decline too, and I was very unhappy with what I was teaching.

 

That said, it's a very family-friendly profession if you like teaching and can be very tough-skinned.

Edited by G5052
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My first question would be: do you like teaching?

 

 

If it's a program you would enjoy, and if teaching is your "thing," I'd go for it. Just keep in mind that a lot can change by the time you get there, so do it for yourself first and foremost.

 

I've been an adjunct since 1998, and it's one of my passions. Because of funding and other issues, I likely will never be full-time, but I plan to continue for many years.

 

I can take any class offered for free, and there are many professional development opportunities. At this point I'm eligible for self-paid health insurance and retirement savings plans. I also get free software, discounts on computers, and various other small benefits.

 

The downside? Community college teaching can be discouraging. I've had sections where 1/2 of them either stopped coming entirely and/or failed because of not turning in homework. You can get some pretty rough characters and even entire classes that will turn against you. I've had to call security to have students removed, and I've had students threaten me physically.

 

Adjuncts can also be treated like commodities versus individuals. I left one college over six months ago after my dean repeatedly lied to me. She has a lot of other issues and the adjuncts were leaving in droves anyway, many like me with 10+ years. My current dean is nearly hands-off other than a few administrative matters through her assistant, but at least her assistant is responsive.

 

It's also tough being out of the mainstream communication channels. Some six years ago I went to look at the schedule just before Christmas to see how enrollment was going and saw that my department had been dissolved. I knew that the department head was moving up into an administrative position, but no one told me that all the sections I had signed a preliminary contract for were gone! Thankfully I got one section in another department at the last minute, but that program was/is on the decline too, and I was very unhappy with what I was teaching.

 

That said, it's a very family-friendly profession if you like teaching and can be very tough-skinned.

I adore teaching and I adore my field of study.

 

I appreciate you offering your experience! I have no interest in becoming full time (at any point) and there are enough colleges locally looking for adjuncts in my field that I would always be likely to find at least one course. I could see some colleges dissolving my dept - but other colleges here growing in the same dept, though I have heard the "commodity" experience before. 

 

I'd consider myself tough-skinned. Usually that is a fault, ha..

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It was worth it for my former teachers to go for their masters in their subject specialization. So my former history teacher went for her masters in history. She has a scholarship but it would have work out without one due to the bump in pay.

 

An MBA was worth it for me when I was working. A MEng by itself would not have been as worth it for my hubby so he did a PhD.

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 Teaching adjunct for the next 9-10 years of homeschooling at even one course per semester means $45-50k income...

 

 

Are you sure that figure is correct (per annum)?  That's several times what it would be where I live.

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So, what would the other option look like - the weekend type job?

 

On the one hand, it would mean losing your weekends - would that be a problem, or would it happen if you were teaching, anyway?  (How part-time would teaching be, even for one course?)  OTOH, often that kind of job is something that you are entirely free of once you aren't at work.  Would it be something you would really dislike, or could you find something you would enjoy?  Would there be a difference in terms of how long you could do that sort of work vs teaching?

 

I suppose another question is, what if you spent the money on the degree, but then could not use it, or maybe work at all - say an illness in the family meant you had to stay home or you were ill.  Would the cost of the degree be a problem?

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Are you sure that figure is correct (per annum)? That's several times what it would be where I live.

Seriously. In certain areas, PhDs with a full load don't make that much. There is also a glut of PhDs on the market, so I would make sure that the money and jobs are really there if that is the main reason you would be pursuing a masters.

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Seriously. In certain areas, PhDs with a full load don't make that much. There is also a glut of PhDs on the market, so I would make sure that the money and jobs are really there if that is the main reason you would be pursuing a masters.

 

Yes - I realize I'm in Canada, but I would not think the difference would be quite so stark - that is about half of what a tenure track FT position might make in my city.

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I have no advice financially. But wanted to say I am very slowly working towards my master's because I adore my field and am willing to pay the cost to further my education in this area. I do not know if I will ever recoup the cost. You really seem to love your field too.

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I assumed she meant 45-50k over the next decade. So that the degree would pay for itself over the long term. That seems realistic to me.

 

Ah, that would make more sense.  I would also be careful to measures the costs of having a very part-time job -- commuting, wardrobe, laptop/phone/technology, etc.

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I will just say my Master's was worth every penny for the doors it opened. You never know when it will come in handy. (Granted, my entire college career only cost $10,000- hello Texas back in the good old days of tuition caps. I think my Masters program was $3,000 at UT -no board, and not counting books.) But you never know where life will take you, so if you can swing the time and money, I don't know anyone who has ever said "I really wish I hadn't gotten that darn master's degree." If you are ONLY getting it for the adjunct position though, I would echo the other posters who say it might not be worth it. If you do it, do it because it's something YOU want to do regardless. It can be a slog and stressful- you will definitely need to be intrinsically motivated at times.

Edited by texasmom33
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Yes - I realize I'm in Canada, but I would not think the difference would be quite so stark - that is about half of what a tenure track FT position might make in my city.

Profs in my area make significantly more, but there are areas of the US where $45,000 is indeed the salary for full-time tenured professors in certain fields. You can look at the salary of anyone working at a public university. Check out Arkansas, for example.

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Profs in my area make significantly more, but there are areas of the US where $45,000 is indeed the salary for full-time tenured professors in certain fields. You can look at the salary of anyone working at a public university. Check out Arkansas, for example.

 

That doesn't surprise me - I know quite a few academics, and many of them have had positions where they were barely scraping by, or some have had to take other kinds of jobs, like teaching in private schools.  When there are a lot of people looking for a relativly few jobs, I guess you don't have to pay much.

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That doesn't surprise me - I know quite a few academics, and many of them have had positions where they were barely scraping by, or some have had to take other kinds of jobs, like teaching in private schools. When there are a lot of people looking for a relativly few jobs, I guess you don't have to pay much.

I don't know, I think it has more to do with anti-intellectualism. I mean, there are relatively few jobs and lots of applicants, I assume, for coaching positions at universities but it doesn't stop the football coach at the University of Arkansas from making $4,100,000.00 or the basketball coach from making nearly 2.5 million.

 

I think it is pretty disgraceful that educators aren't highly valued and paid accordingly.

Edited by bibiche
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I don't know, I think it has more to do with anti-intellectualism. And I think it is pretty disgraceful that educators aren't more valued. I mean, there are relatively few jobs and lots of applicants, I assume, for coaching positions at universities but it doesn't stop the football coach at the University of Arkansas from making $4,100,000 or the basketball coach from making nearly 2.5 million.

 

I just find the sports thing really weird.  It isn't really a factor here, we don't treat university sports the same way - we don't allow sports scholarships, for example.

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Are you sure that figure is correct (per annum)?  That's several times what it would be where I live.

 

Locally, adjuncts make $2500-4000 a semester per 3-credit course. If you're not commuting too far and just wear business casual clothes that you already own, it isn't bad pay once you're used to the particular course and are just keeping up with it. The first semester teaching a new course is of course the hardest.

 

I teach computer science and web design, so I always just wore khakis and a polo to teach in. Crawling around reconnecting computers and leaning over monitors limited my wardrobe, but I sort of dress that way anyway, so I didn't buy clothes just for teaching.

 

Some colleges will actually make their staff at all levels pay for parking. I interviewed with a college like that, and between the commute and the $100/semester parking fee, it wasn't worth it to me.

 

Now I teach entirely online, which is very cost effective because no parking, no commute, and no dressing to teach. The downside is that I have a continuous flood of questions via email to deal with, and sometimes troubleshooting Flash via email doesn't work that well. I hold online office hours too, but I probably only have a student come maybe 2-3 times a month.

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I should not even answer your question of "is it worth it?" I usually come down on the side of "Yes, absolutely - even if it's just to gain more knowledge in your field if that is where you will be for your remaining working years." I realize for some people it does not ring true.

 

Here is another thought: Many colleges / universities offer more "creative ways" to pay. There are installment payments spread out over the semester or even the whole year. Would something like this enable you to avoid any debt and pay as you go?

It sounds like to me that you would do your MA/MS if money ways not the obstacle.

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If you didn't have children, and weren't homeschooling, I'd say go ahead. I think your plate is potentially already full, is it not? How many years are you going to need to complete the Master's courses and associated practicum/research, then how many classes do you need to teach to make back that money over the 10 years. Is that time away from your young children worth it?  I think the part-time work you can start at now would be a better option.

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Are you sure that figure is correct (per annum)?  That's several times what it would be where I live.

 

Locally, the lowest paying community college pays adjuncts at $910 per credit hour.

Each course is 3 credit hours on average = $2730 per course. 

Teaching one course per semester (not including summer) = $5,460 annually.

Over 9-10 years = $49,140 - $54,600 (obviously this is gross not net).

 

Just a rough calculation, but my math feels solid? 

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Locally, the lowest paying community college pays adjuncts at $910 per credit hour.

Each course is 3 credit hours on average = $2730 per course. 

Teaching one course per semester (not including summer) = $5,460 annually.

Over 9-10 years = $49,140 - $54,600 (obviously this is gross not net).

 

Just a rough calculation, but my math feels solid? 

 

What's that in terms of per-hour of work?

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If you didn't have children, and weren't homeschooling, I'd say go ahead. I think your plate is potentially already full, is it not? How many years are you going to need to complete the Master's courses and associated practicum/research, then how many classes do you need to teach to make back that money over the 10 years. Is that time away from your young children worth it?  I think the part-time work you can start at now would be a better option.

 

I spent the past 6 years completing my bachelors (124 credits). The masters programs we are considering are 33 credit hours (at most). It would take 2 years on a part time basis. The program would not take away from our homeschooling no more than it has since I began college 6 years ago.

 

That being said, you make a great point about the cost and making that back. It'd take about 5 years teaching two courses a year to make back that income. That is notable. But it would be less time away from my children per week (3-5 on average) than a part time job I am looking at now (16 hours every other weekend). If the discussion is about time away from our kids, then the masters degree would be the better choice, it seems. The masters programs we are considering are online/distance education (about half my bachelors was online, half evening classes). Locally, an online masters is just as reputable as in person in my field of study assuming the university is accredited.

 

 

Part of the consideration is I am looking ahead 10 years as well - when our kids are heading out of the home, I would like to add to our income in a position I enjoy. I'm totally not opposed to a part time job at a local shelter for the next 10 years, it would give me a good base to use for a better position income-to-hours after the kids are moving on. Income wise I'd make the same annually but put in 3x the hours from the family... I guess if a masters is worth the investment, I would rather teach an adjunct class each semester and spend more time with my family... Thanks for bringing up the point regarding time with family, it really lends to support for the 2 year masters degree part time!

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What's that in terms of per-hour of work?

 

I hope I understand what you are asking... :)

 

 

$2730 per course = average 3 hours per week of teaching + prepwork for that class  X  16 week long semester

 

I'd estimate it at $30-34 per hour assuming 2-3 hours or prepwork per week. They offer CE positions (again, using the lowest community college pay in our area) at $30 per hour... so that seems about right.

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I should not even answer your question of "is it worth it?" I usually come down on the side of "Yes, absolutely - even if it's just to gain more knowledge in your field if that is where you will be for your remaining working years." I realize for some people it does not ring true.

 

Here is another thought: Many colleges / universities offer more "creative ways" to pay. There are installment payments spread out over the semester or even the whole year. Would something like this enable you to avoid any debt and pay as you go?

It sounds like to me that you would do your MA/MS if money ways not the obstacle.

 

 

We may be able to avoid some debt - but its still the same monetary investment consideration. We're in suburbia on an income of around 50k due to homeschooling so the money invested in education has to be a consideration for us. It's not a barrier, only a consideration. 

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I hope I understand what you are asking... :)

 

 

$2730 per course = average 3 hours per week of teaching + prepwork for that class  X  16 week long semester

 

I'd estimate it at $30-34 per hour assuming 2-3 hours or prepwork per week. They offer CE positions (again, using the lowest community college pay in our area) at $30 per hour... so that seems about right.

 

Just keep in mind that your prep work will vary depending on your experience with the course and what it involves. You also will have probably at least one hour for office time a week. I preferred doing 1/2 hour before class and 1/2 hour after class.

 

Having to respond to emails should also be in there. That can be time-consuming too, and most colleges require 24 hour turn-around Monday-Friday.

 

When I was teaching a computer literacy course that I've been teaching for over a decade now, it was probably an hour max most of the time just answering emailed questions and a quick scan to make sure things were working several times a week. My online quizzes, tests, and exercises were all set up ahead of time and the majority of them were graded electronically. Only two tests and a project were graded by hand, and I could do a section in about 90 minutes with an online rubric.

 

My multimedia class is more time-consuming, but it's 100% online, so my time is flexible. They have a lot of technical problems, but thankfully I know the fixes in most cases and have a library of bookmarked Youtube videos I can point them too. The grading is more detailed too. Each test is online but has multiple choice and short answer questions. They have an ongoing project that is graded in stages, but there's a rubric too. I have two required hours a week in online office hours, but I can be working online elsewhere during that time if no one shows. That one runs in 8-week sections, and I figure 8-10 hours a week.

 

Anyway, just to show that your projected hours may or may not be within range.

 

One of the other posters was concerned about the impact on your family. Of course that's an issue, but it's all a balancing act. We became parents later in life and wanted for me to keep my foot in the door in case I ever had to take over as the breadwinner. Yes, my working has had a impact on my children. Working always does. But we felt the trade-off was necessary. In our case, we ultimately have spent most of my college teaching income and other contract work I do on medical bills. It has become an important part of our bottom line. And in January, I'll be the breadwinner as DH retires early on disability. So although there was impact, we don't regret it in the long run.

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Just keep in mind that your prep work will vary depending on your experience with the course and what it involves. You also will have probably at least one hour for office time a week. I preferred doing 1/2 hour before class and 1/2 hour after class.

 

Anyway, just to show that your projected hours may or may not be within range.

 

 

 

:iagree: I'm SI-ing (like group tutoring) for one class as an undergraduate. I have 3 hours of tutoring and 1 hr of office time paid each week. Outside of that I average 2-3 hours of additional work, emails, updating, etc just to make it all run smoothly. I'm not grading anything.

 

 

I'm paying attention to this question too. I hope to get my master's and adjunct teaching would be on the list of possible jobs if I stop with the master's. 

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Another thing to consider....

What do you plan to do AFTER homeschooling is over??

10 years will pass more quickly than you think!

 

My youngest son graduated from homeschooling this year and I am in a "transition" year myself.

I'm working about 30 hours a week in an inventory management position while deciding whether or I want another "career" or if I only want a "job".

Having an MBA has opened doors for me... I've been interviewed at a very high rate and was the "clincher" for my current job. I will have "career" options if I stay with the current company.

So, think about life after homeschooling.

 

Also, I'm an adjunct at a community college.

Pay is horrible considering.  For some classes I've put in so many hours that I made "minimum wage" or less! I had a co-worker tell me that he would have made more money being a cashier at Kroger for a class he was teaching. But for other classes the pay averaged out to about $16 per hour... not bad.

 

At my college adjuncts can teach at maximum of 9 hours per semester..... but some semesters I've been slated for 9 and then sections are dropped and I've only taught 3 hours. One semester ALL the classes were re-arranged at the last minute... I "thought" i was teaching 3 classes and ended up teaching 2 DIFFERENT classes.  Last semester I had zero classes!  You canNOT depend on adjunct income!!!!!

 

But... think about income when you will be able to work full time.

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Given everything you've said already about being able to do both, loving teaching, and being happy in the field, my question is:  Why do you care what our opinion is?  You already know you want the masters!

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Do you need to work in a CC setting?  A half time high school teaching position would pay much better.  It might even include benefits, depending on the area/district.

 

To make $50,000 over the course of 10 years sounds painful low to me as a return on your investment.

 

I will admit that I started out teaching in a CC.  I moved to teaching PS and made significantly more and had more benefits.  

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Also, I'm an adjunct at a community college.

Pay is horrible considering.  For some classes I've put in so many hours that I made "minimum wage" or less! I had a co-worker tell me that he would have made more money being a cashier at Kroger for a class he was teaching. But for other classes the pay averaged out to about $16 per hour... not bad.

 

At my college adjuncts can teach at maximum of 9 hours per semester..... but some semesters I've been slated for 9 and then sections are dropped and I've only taught 3 hours. One semester ALL the classes were re-arranged at the last minute... I "thought" i was teaching 3 classes and ended up teaching 2 DIFFERENT classes.  Last semester I had zero classes!  You canNOT depend on adjunct income!!!!!

 

But... think about income when you will be able to work full time.

 

A lot depends on the policies of the college you work for. The one I work for now thankfully is very thoughtful about their scheduling. Other than enrollment issues, I know what I'm going to teach and when. Earlier on sometimes I got bumped by a full-timer who needed more sections, or I got moved around at the last minute. It really depends on who is doing the schedule.

 

Do you need to work in a CC setting?  A half time high school teaching position would pay much better.  It might even include benefits, depending on the area/district.

 

To make $50,000 over the course of 10 years sounds painful low to me as a return on your investment.

 

I will admit that I started out teaching in a CC.  I moved to teaching PS and made significantly more and had more benefits.  

 

Some years back I looked into this, although the positions here are all full-time. I could get a public school teaching certificate for about $5000 in a semester, but likely my first teaching gig would require a long commute to a rural school because hiring teachers here is still very tight. Several friends who homeschooled did this and were very happy with it. Ultimately they ended up at schools closer to home. Two of them are now working on master's degrees that are partially funded by the school system.

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Great input! And I ask for your opinions because it opens up a lot of considerations and helps bring forth issues I didn't consider - honestly. I would love a masters, but if it is not a good investment then I'm willing to come to terms with that.

 

If I want to teach at a high school in my state I need a teaching license. I don't at the CCs...

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Do you need to work in a CC setting?  A half time high school teaching position would pay much better.  It might even include benefits, depending on the area/district.

 

To make $50,000 over the course of 10 years sounds painful low to me as a return on your investment.

 

I will admit that I started out teaching in a CC.  I moved to teaching PS and made significantly more and had more benefits.  

 

I don't think I could balance teaching PS schedule wise with homeschooling. CC would be much more managable it seems...

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One more thing to consider: Do you think that things in your area are going to remain stable for the next 10 years? With the rise in college costs & the use/abuse of adjuncts, I feel like something has to change but I don't know what and when it might be. Some local colleges are unionizing their adjuncts now and that can be kind of bad for those who really only want a few courses over an entire year -- if the union negotiates a guaranteed X number of courses and it's more than what they want but they still need to pay dues for instance. And of course there's the issue of whether a masters would be enough several years down the line. I know a couple of lawyers who can't reliably teach law classes now because it's not considered adequate qualification somehow.

Edited by tm919
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What is your field? Do you like your weekend job? What is your weekend job? Have you ever taught?   Assuming that you like your weekend job, I would probably stay with that from what you wrote in the OP.  If you *really* want to go for an M.S. Degree, that's a lot of $ and a lot of work.  If you want to teach, then IMO, your ultimate goal should be a Ph.D.  One of my former colleagues had an M.S. in Math and he got fed up working as an Engineer and went to teach in a Community College in TX.  He then started a Distance Learning (actually Hybrid) program (from NOVA University in FL I think)  and got a Ph.D. in Education and he retired from the Community College district.  Working as an Educator has plenty of issues, but for him, having worked as an Engineer, it was like going from hell to heaven.   If you are going to go for Advanced degrees, then I suggest that you continue studying, without interruption, so that you will not lose (as my DD says, "the rhythm of studying") and not forget what you have learned so far.  If there is a lapse in time, it gets harder and harder to go back to school.   GL  

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I spent the past 6 years completing my bachelors (124 credits). The masters programs we are considering are 33 credit hours (at most). It would take 2 years on a part time basis. The program would not take away from our homeschooling no more than it has since I began college 6 years ago.

 

That being said, you make a great point about the cost and making that back. It'd take about 5 years teaching two courses a year to make back that income. That is notable. But it would be less time away from my children per week (3-5 on average) than a part time job I am looking at now (16 hours every other weekend). If the discussion is about time away from our kids, then the masters degree would be the better choice, it seems. The masters programs we are considering are online/distance education (about half my bachelors was online, half evening classes). Locally, an online masters is just as reputable as in person in my field of study assuming the university is accredited.

 

 

Part of the consideration is I am looking ahead 10 years as well - when our kids are heading out of the home, I would like to add to our income in a position I enjoy. I'm totally not opposed to a part time job at a local shelter for the next 10 years, it would give me a good base to use for a better position income-to-hours after the kids are moving on. Income wise I'd make the same annually but put in 3x the hours from the family... I guess if a masters is worth the investment, I would rather teach an adjunct class each semester and spend more time with my family... Thanks for bringing up the point regarding time with family, it really lends to support for the 2 year masters degree part time!

 

You are still very young, and you have plenty of time to make back the financial investment of the Masters courses. I would have thought it would take longer to get the Master's degree going part-time, though. It was 2 years full-time when I got mine, and it was definitely a very, very busy 2 years. You may want to confirm your expectations on the time requirements.  There are fewer courses in a Master's program than undergrad, but they are demanding. I wouldn't judge things simply by the credit numbers, but try to talk with current students.

Edited by wintermom
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I got my master's at age 31.  It made the world of difference to my career, which was on a completely different path, and OUT of teaching.  It was an MBA.  Totally worth it.  But it was the hardest 2 years of my life, scholastically, as this subject matter was not "naturall" for me.  I worked my backside off, held down a full-time job and was a graduate assistant, as well.  

 

I have not read all of the responses on the thread, but it would seem to me that *what* you get your master's in will make a difference as to whether it is worth it.  If you get a mathy/sciency master's, you will have a much better chance getting jobs and being steadily employed, and perhaps even at a higher rate of pay (supply, demand, private institutions) than if you get a humanities master's.  It is hard to figure it into the mix, but the kind of master's does make a difference.  

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Maybe I missed it, but what subject are you hoping to get your master's in?

 

I'm planning to apply to master's programs this coming fall/winter. A master's is required for full certification as a speech & language pathologist. I could work as a SLP Assistant with just the bachelor's and certificate that I will finish next year. But SLPA's make about half of what full SLP's do and have limitations on what they can do (no assessments or program planning, only carrying out the program designed by the supervising SLP). If I can get accepted (it's a very competitive field), I do plan on going to grad school.

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Hmm. A JD is a terminal degree. I'm not sure what more of a qualification you could have to teach a law class.

Yes, I thought it was strange, and kind of insulting. They were told for the purposes of these particular colleges (we are in the Northeast where there are ridiculous numbers of PhDs...), a PhD was considered a terminal degree and so was an EdD but a JD wasn't. One of these women decided it wasn't worth it,since the pay was paltry anyway. The other is actually getting an EdD just for the credential.

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