Author Topic: Planning for Grad School  (Read 1299 times)

Starstuff

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Planning for Grad School
« on: April 08, 2013, 08:18:58 AM »
I'm 24, just starting on the Mustachian lifestyle. I'm making $36,000/ year (increased to $40,000 in July) at my full-time job and between $800-1,300 a month at my part-time job. I have $3,880 in savings, $2,789 in 0% interest debt, and $17,593 in 3.5% interest debt. My more fixed expenses range between $850-900 depending on utility bills, and my more liquid expenses are around $575, but I'm working hard to drop those. I keep cash savings of around $1,000 separate from my actual savings in my checking account for various emergencies that I may not have time to transfer money for. I can itemize my expenses if anyone would like.

My dilemma: I'm in a well-paying, dead end career in a field I hate. My job may not be around in a few more years, and I want to get out now. I've got my heart set on become a hospital administrator. The career lets me flex my management muscles, do something good (help people) with my efforts, and can spur a profitable consulting career after I retire. But, I'll have to go back to school to qualify for the positions I want. I've explored ways to do this without a degree, and because the field is growing and competitive, and unemployment so high, it's really not possible. (Please don't try to convince me to find a new field- I've spent a lot of time thinking on this. Having a fulfilling profession is very important to me, even if it's not a strictly Mustachian goal.)

So what is the most practical way to do this? I want to be in school by August 2014. I intend to work a part time job for the first year, maybe two, and I hope to have a paid residency for the last part of schooling (depending on what program I get in- generally $40,000 salary), so I'll have about $1,000 a month in income. My first goal is to eliminate my debt. But, I don't know how to do this and save enough to at least cover my living expenses without using loans. I plan to take loans for tuition, despite my misgivings about student loans, but I refuse to use student loans to pay rent/buy groceries like a lot of people do.

Does anyone have some advice or practical experience I can learn from? Thank you!

freelancerNfulltimer

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Re: Planning for Grad School
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2013, 08:35:23 AM »
Can you keep the full-time job, quit the part-time job and take night classes? It may take you longer to complete the degree but money wise it's a better option.

Jill the Pill

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Re: Planning for Grad School
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2013, 08:36:43 AM »
Could you tell us what sort of graduate program it is?  When you say "residency," it sounds like med school. 

If your college grades are good, is it possible for you to apply to academic/research PhD programs that are plausibly related to hospital administration?  Something where you could make a good argument later on that you've had appropriate, if unusual, training?  (Something like public health or health policy.)

I ask because I've now been in two graduate programs where my tuition was waived, and I receive a stipend and health insurance.  No debt at all. 

Starstuff

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Re: Planning for Grad School
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2013, 08:49:18 AM »
Can you keep the full-time job, quit the part-time job and take night classes? It may take you longer to complete the degree but money wise it's a better option.

Not really. The night programs are designed for people already in healthcare, so doing so would put me behind professionally in the future. Believe me, I looked hard at that option.

Could you tell us what sort of graduate program it is?  When you say "residency," it sounds like med school. 

If your college grades are good, is it possible for you to apply to academic/research PhD programs that are plausibly related to hospital administration?  Something where you could make a good argument later on that you've had appropriate, if unusual, training?  (Something like public health or health policy.)

I ask because I've now been in two graduate programs where my tuition was waived, and I receive a stipend and health insurance.  No debt at all. 

The program is a Master of Health Administration. It's a separate degree programs that requires accreditation by a govt counsel. The best programs offer a 8-12 month paid administrative residency, and I'm shooting hard for those programs because of the obvious financial and professional advantages. Public health/policy degrees are a distinctly separate program-- generally graduation from an accredited school is the only real way to get a good administrative job. I've been trying to find research interests of the professors, but so far most are practical, not research based because of the nature of the field.

Can you explain more about how you got tuition waivers, etc? I graduated with a 3.80, so I'm hoping for some serious financial aid, but I don't want to plan on money I don't have.

Kazimieras

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Re: Planning for Grad School
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2013, 09:16:04 AM »
My wife and I received finished grad school and were faced with a similar problem. Oddly she did as Starstuff pointed out and did her Masters of Health Administration (I did an MBA). If you are not scared of hard work (and judging from your various jobs I say you do work hard), consider taking a part-time program. They are typically in the evenings after work and eat up about 2 nights a week with classes (plus homework). The entire process can take a 2-3 years to complete, however the outcome is worth it. It sucks working for 40 hours and having another 6 hours plug 6-12 hours a homework a week, but it is amazing what you can do if you need to. We found that because you are working fulltime you learn very quickly a lot of the "other" skills the programs offer (such as time management and knowing when are things "good enough). We both also found that you end up using what you learned in class, so the reienforcement of skills is excellent. For my wife she actually was promoted at work because of a combiantion of luck and being in the program. I do know some employers, e.g. GE, specifically prefer part-time students since it shows that they are able to truely grind through something.

The MHA residency programs are amazing. The one offered at my unversity is only 4 months of full-time work, but you get a mentor (typically a senior VP or CEO) and you become their right hand with a major project or two that you completely own. If you need funding, talk to some potential employers and strike a deal with them - aka I work for you for 5 years starting when I start my program, and you pay for my tuition.

Jill the Pill

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Re: Planning for Grad School
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2013, 09:20:30 AM »
Quote
Can you explain more about how you got tuition waivers, etc? I graduated with a 3.80, so I'm hoping for some serious financial aid, but I don't want to plan on money I don't have.
Yeah, this is not need-based aid, alas.  It's merit-based (and it sounds like you would qualify), and it's built right into the program.  I chose to apply only to programs that offered full funding: usually research and teaching PhD programs, not professional school Masters.  Something like this <http://test.gradschool.umd.edu/catalog/programs/phhs.htm> would probably have that kind of funding in your field. 

(but they require your MHA as a pre-req!)
« Last Edit: April 08, 2013, 09:30:34 AM by Jill the Pill »

Starstuff

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Re: Planning for Grad School
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2013, 09:30:39 AM »
My wife and I received finished grad school and were faced with a similar problem. Oddly she did as Starstuff pointed out and did her Masters of Health Administration (I did an MBA). If you are not scared of hard work (and judging from your various jobs I say you do work hard), consider taking a part-time program. They are typically in the evenings after work and eat up about 2 nights a week with classes (plus homework). The entire process can take a 2-3 years to complete, however the outcome is worth it. It sucks working for 40 hours and having another 6 hours plug 6-12 hours a homework a week, but it is amazing what you can do if you need to. We found that because you are working fulltime you learn very quickly a lot of the "other" skills the programs offer (such as time management and knowing when are things "good enough). We both also found that you end up using what you learned in class, so the reienforcement of skills is excellent. For my wife she actually was promoted at work because of a combiantion of luck and being in the program. I do know some employers, e.g. GE, specifically prefer part-time students since it shows that they are able to truely grind through something.

The MHA residency programs are amazing. The one offered at my unversity is only 4 months of full-time work, but you get a mentor (typically a senior VP or CEO) and you become their right hand with a major project or two that you completely own. If you need funding, talk to some potential employers and strike a deal with them - aka I work for you for 5 years starting when I start my program, and you pay for my tuition.

May I ask what school your wife attended? What field was she working in while she went to school? (You can message me if you don't want to post that in public.) Does she feel that I'd be at a disadvantage working in mortgages while going to school for an MHA? I'm not concerned about workload- I'll be working two jobs and taking prerequisite classes in a few weeks. I just want to make sure I'm not disadvantaging myself down the road.

Kazimieras

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Re: Planning for Grad School
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2013, 02:12:44 PM »
May I ask what school your wife attended? What field was she working in while she went to school? (You can message me if you don't want to post that in public.) Does she feel that I'd be at a disadvantage working in mortgages while going to school for an MHA? I'm not concerned about workload- I'll be working two jobs and taking prerequisite classes in a few weeks. I just want to make sure I'm not disadvantaging myself down the road.

PM sent with some of the more personal details, but for those out there that are considering this here goes:

Does she feel that I'd be at a disadvantage working in mortgages while going to school for an MHA?
I am unsure if you are talking about the field of mortgages or the funds required to pay mortgages, so I will hedge on both. So for fields - it doesn't matter really what you are in. It does help to have some health science background, however it isn't a requirement. Knowing, or at least being able to learn, how the money works in the system is very important. If you have a strong background in finance feel lucky since because of the convoluted payment structures of healthcare strong finance skills are very important. As depressing as it was, many in the program had moderate to poor excel skills. Be sure to know what unique aspects and perspectives you can bring to the program. As compared to someone like a doctor or nurse, you will have some extra reading to understand what is medically happening and why. However the key to these programs is to learn how to work with a team and rely on teammates. They saved her bacon on many occasions for areas she was less experienced with and she repaid the favour. Her program was a mix of people and had an older ICU nurse, a doctor, an HK grad, a bcom grad, and someone that worked in manufacturing, so I imagine you'd fit right in.
With respect to factoring finances I want to note that I live in Canada where tuition costs can be quite different than the US. I actually work in the education sector and it is still confusing :) Our jobs are by all standards well paying, which made the process a bit easier. That said we both did our Masters while working full-time, paying for one mortgage and then purchasing a rental income property (and renovating it). We had wiped out any non-mortgage debt before starting school and saved up a buffer, which helped a lot with managing cash flows. The cost of tuition alone ate up annually about 35% of our take home income each year, so if you are careful it is doable.
If you have a significant other you WILL come to rely on them heavily. They will make it easier financially, but know it will stress any relationship (see below under costs)

For picking a program.
At least here, residency typically led to a job offer afterwards. Think of it as a 4 month interview (her case was 4 months) where you both get to kick each other's tires. So if you are picking either a school or a residence, make sure you're okay with staying in that city. The other side of the coin is you will gain a very valuable network in school. If everyone that graduates tends to stick in town, that is great - so long as you intend on sticking in town :)

Managing your workload.
The number of jobs is a bad metric, just remember that you only have so many hours in a day and so much energy. Be prepared for many late nights and booking everything in advance into a nice and tidy time block. My wife and I had to schedule dinners, date nights (this actually became grocery shopping), etc.

What it will cost you.
This is a bit weird to bring up, but eyes need to be wide open on this one. Most people doing a part-time program while working full-time have an increased rate of divorce. The program claimed 5 couples out of 50 or so. You will not have "free evenings" for your time in school. Expect to have to work hard just to maintain your current friends (something I fumbled on).


That all said, she swears by it and wouldn't have done it any other way. She would never do it again, but is glad she did. Good luck :)