Author Topic: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)  (Read 4747 times)

deek

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Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« on: April 04, 2017, 03:30:05 PM »
Hope everyone is well on this Tuesday!

Ever since graduation in 2014, I have been unsure about my future. I do not feel passionate about many things other than my hobbies, and am not a huge fan of working under rules. I moved to Oregon to work in the golf industry for a year, and just got back to Iowa.  Has anyone else struggled with career options at my age? Did you decide to get a Master's in your mid-late 20s? Was it worth it in the long run?

I feel this might be the only way to escape the same old run of the mill desk jobs. I just am not sure about my future right now and it is frustrating.

Glenstache

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2017, 04:00:57 PM »
You will always end up working under rules, whether they are imposed by a work place or if they are soft and a result of taking on responsibility. You may want to consider the difference between a career being "fun" and "satisfying". A job can be difficult and suck but still be satisfying.

Masters degrees are a really nice sweet spot education level for employment in private industry. In technical fields, you will be able to advance in a career and get a lot of leverage out of it relative to a BS. An MS in art or literature will not do as much for you and may be only marginally useful (YMMV, and there are significant exceptions of course).

What do you mean by environmental field? That is a big swatch of industry. What is your current education background and what do you have a general interest in? Do you have research experience?

deek

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2017, 04:59:32 PM »
You will always end up working under rules, whether they are imposed by a work place or if they are soft and a result of taking on responsibility. You may want to consider the difference between a career being "fun" and "satisfying". A job can be difficult and suck but still be satisfying.

Masters degrees are a really nice sweet spot education level for employment in private industry. In technical fields, you will be able to advance in a career and get a lot of leverage out of it relative to a BS. An MS in art or literature will not do as much for you and may be only marginally useful (YMMV, and there are significant exceptions of course).

What do you mean by environmental field? That is a big swatch of industry. What is your current education background and what do you have a general interest in? Do you have research experience?

If I opt for a Master's program, it would most likely be in urban planning as I have an interest in optimizing land use. I also have a lot of interest in protected areas and non-profits that work to improve these areas. The school I would attend offers assistantships that cover tuition also.

As far as a technical field goes, I would like to teach myself web development, something that doesn't require a Master's degree.

I just struggle with the final decision, and since this is the case, I'm not sure if it's my calling.

Molzy

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2017, 08:21:51 PM »
I have a masters in an environmental field, and from my experiences (biology rather than urban planning), in order to advance in the field, you end up stuck in a desk job. I have coworkers who still do quite a bit of field work, but they are advancing slower than me in terms of both career advancement and, presumably, pay as well.

If you can find a masters program that pays your tuition plus a stipend, I'd highly recommend it. I know my firm mostly hires masters full time, people with a bachelors get hired for temporary positions and only kept on full time if they impress a project manager who can keep them busy (I'm in the consulting world, so this could differ by industry).

Good luck with whatever you decide!

deek

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2017, 08:44:46 PM »
Assistantships qualify students for full tuition scholarships that are accompanied by a stipend. I'm thinking about it very seriously.
Though this would take away from any time I could put toward working on any technical skills to have some side income. Hmmm

cakie

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2017, 09:09:54 PM »
Sounds like your only short term financial hit will be a bit of lost income while you study. Seems like a good choice to do it especially if there are direct links with industry. You often can wrangle jobs with more autonomy with a masters, if you go about it right. This may make your time working to FI easier?

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NorCal

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2017, 09:46:46 PM »
I'm admittedly a bit cynical, so take that into consideration.  This is just my experience, and hopefully it isn't universal.

Every person I've known who chased a career because they "liked" the field ended up miserable in it.  Either the work wasn't what they expected or the pay was low enough that it caused major compromises in other areas of their life.  A few select examples:

-One person who enjoyed environmental work got a Master's to pursue environmental research.  She is naturally a fiscally responsible person, but between a government job, triplets, and a partner that can't afford to work (triplets), they are pretty much destined to live paycheck-to-paycheck.  Even though she's passionate about the environment, she's still generally miserable in her job.  I also doubt the marriage will survive.

-Another person was passionate about the environment and got a law degree.  Surprise surprise, the only well paying jobs in that field are defending against environmental lawsuits.  Not exactly a recipe for career enjoyment.

-I personally got my BA in International Relations.  I was unemployable.  I eventually got an MBA in Finance.  I find the work interesting and satisfying.  But that's 100% different from being passionate about it.  It's good work as work goes, but there's still a reason early retirement is on my life-goal list.

These are the things I wish someone had told me before I bought into the "follow your passion" advice.  Honestly, you should get a good job that pays the bills and gives a sense of accomplishment.  You can follow you passions in your spare time and in early retirement.

rockeTree

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2017, 04:59:31 AM »
Urban planning has a glut of grads for jobs that pay badly, at least in my area. People I know who get those jobs like them but it's a slog. Consider the rep and placement record of your possible program very carefully.


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Jon Bon

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2017, 05:46:52 AM »


I also have a lot of interest in protected areas and non-profits that work to improve these areas.






What you are interested in, and what is a decent career option might not be the same thing........

I got my MBA when I was 27, from a highly rated business school, so I must have started when I was 25. It for sure helped, I was able to get out of a dead end career that I hated and into a more fast tracked career. It also opened my eyes to entrepreneurship and I was able to walk away from "working under the rules" at 33.

Just please make sure there are good jobs in the field you are making a large time and financial investment into. Also it has to be a legit school, I am not trying to be an education snob here. Recruiters looking at your resume sure will. They look at resumes all day, highly rated schools do get you noticed, degree factories probably even hurt you.

Pigeon

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2017, 06:13:34 AM »
I think you should contact a handful of schools and talk to them about job placement and recruitment for their students.  Then see if you can find some people employed as planners and ask them the same question. I would also discuss with them the details of their work.  It is my impression that most urban/regional planners spend most of their time in the office.

If you aren't big on rules, I'm not seeing the appeal of this as a career.  Most planners find employment working for some kind of government entity, where rules and bureaucracy abound.  In addition, you will be dealing with all kinds of environmental and land use restrictions and regulations.

I don't think not knowing what you want to do in your mid 20s is all that uncommon.

deek

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2017, 07:39:38 AM »
I can relate to the conversation here about a job being different that something you are passionate about. When I went to Oregon for a year, I had a fulfulling experience. But I have a love for golf, and working in the industry didn't really make that fade away, but I became sick of being around golf courses because work was associated with it.

I have lots of experience with supply chain and procurement work. So maybe I work on working my way up in that line of work and try to find a way to do this type of job either remotely or in a way that allows me to be somewhat mobile and not stuck in a chair. An MBA is certainly attainable and would probably be paid for by an employer if I found the right company/institution.

cakie

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2017, 03:50:31 PM »
I know someone who worked a desk job in logistics for years (with related diploma), but was much happier and earned more working in various warehouses as a general storeman lackey... Easy work, paid by the hour (overtime!), and since you're not a "professional" you have more leeway to ignore the pointless rule-makers...

Case

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2017, 08:40:08 AM »
You will always end up working under rules, whether they are imposed by a work place or if they are soft and a result of taking on responsibility. You may want to consider the difference between a career being "fun" and "satisfying". A job can be difficult and suck but still be satisfying.

Masters degrees are a really nice sweet spot education level for employment in private industry. In technical fields, you will be able to advance in a career and get a lot of leverage out of it relative to a BS. An MS in art or literature will not do as much for you and may be only marginally useful (YMMV, and there are significant exceptions of course).

What do you mean by environmental field? That is a big swatch of industry. What is your current education background and what do you have a general interest in? Do you have research experience?

This is certainly not true in the sciences; in the sciences you need a PhD or you will often become a technician.  Engineering I think is different though.... though I would argue engineers are better off with just a BS.

Glenstache

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2017, 09:31:07 AM »
You will always end up working under rules, whether they are imposed by a work place or if they are soft and a result of taking on responsibility. You may want to consider the difference between a career being "fun" and "satisfying". A job can be difficult and suck but still be satisfying.

Masters degrees are a really nice sweet spot education level for employment in private industry. In technical fields, you will be able to advance in a career and get a lot of leverage out of it relative to a BS. An MS in art or literature will not do as much for you and may be only marginally useful (YMMV, and there are significant exceptions of course).

What do you mean by environmental field? That is a big swatch of industry. What is your current education background and what do you have a general interest in? Do you have research experience?

This is certainly not true in the sciences; in the sciences you need a PhD or you will often become a technician.  Engineering I think is different though.... though I would argue engineers are better off with just a BS.
It think the relative value of degrees varies by what slice of the sciences and industry a person is in. My blub is from the point of view of having a PhD, working in environmental geology for 12 years as a consultant, being involved in hiring and project management, and working with a lot of environmental engineers at small and large firms. For those situations, I'd say what I wrote above is pretty spot on. Looking at the options for friends in say, biotechnology, I'd say your assessment of the value of MS vs BS vs PhD is more appropriate.

TL:DR-> talk to people in the specific field you are interested in. Literally call them cold and ask them to go to coffee for 15 minutes to have them tell you about their job and general field.

Case

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2017, 04:02:20 PM »
You will always end up working under rules, whether they are imposed by a work place or if they are soft and a result of taking on responsibility. You may want to consider the difference between a career being "fun" and "satisfying". A job can be difficult and suck but still be satisfying.

Masters degrees are a really nice sweet spot education level for employment in private industry. In technical fields, you will be able to advance in a career and get a lot of leverage out of it relative to a BS. An MS in art or literature will not do as much for you and may be only marginally useful (YMMV, and there are significant exceptions of course).

What do you mean by environmental field? That is a big swatch of industry. What is your current education background and what do you have a general interest in? Do you have research experience?

This is certainly not true in the sciences; in the sciences you need a PhD or you will often become a technician.  Engineering I think is different though.... though I would argue engineers are better off with just a BS.
It think the relative value of degrees varies by what slice of the sciences and industry a person is in. My blub is from the point of view of having a PhD, working in environmental geology for 12 years as a consultant, being involved in hiring and project management, and working with a lot of environmental engineers at small and large firms. For those situations, I'd say what I wrote above is pretty spot on. Looking at the options for friends in say, biotechnology, I'd say your assessment of the value of MS vs BS vs PhD is more appropriate.

TL:DR-> talk to people in the specific field you are interested in. Literally call them cold and ask them to go to coffee for 15 minutes to have them tell you about their job and general field.

Good point, I stand corrected.

FIreDrill

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2017, 05:12:23 PM »
I agree with most others that this is highly dependent on the field you are in or the field you are looking to go into.  Definitely try to meet with several people that are in the position you want and get their advice.  Their advice will be more valuable than most of the advice you get here IMO.

Having said that, I'll be turning 27 shortly and plan on starting my masters  later this year.  My employer will be picking up the educational costs though so that will be nice.  The program I am applying for is competency based and self paced.  I know several people in my field that have degrees from this university so I feel pretty confident in the legitimacy of the university.  I'm planning on finishing my masters in 12 to 18 months while working full time.  I should increase my compensation and the leverage I have once I finish.

I'm using the degree to increase my control of what type of work I do and where I do it.

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myrax

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2017, 04:29:40 PM »
I went back to get my Master's in Urban Planning at 28 and graduated at 30. Since then I have been working at non-profits and have found it pretty satisfying- however it is definitely not a career path that earns a lot of money.

If you don't like rules, planning is NOT the field for you. A great deal of planning is interpreting and applying code (aka rules, many of which are very arbitrary and outdated). If you go into the advocacy/non-profit side of planning, your work will be mainly learning about rules and then trying to change them by following a long process of rules.

Most planners spend most of their time sitting at desks. For a planner, I have had pretty active jobs, but I still spend the majority of my time at a desk. Site visits are great, but mostly you spend your time analyzing and recording what you saw and making recommendations off of it. A lot of what takes you away from a desk is community engagement, which can be awesome, but also can involve people yelling at you for being part of a UN conspiracy that starts with taking away sidewalks and ends with taking away Christianity.

Getting a Master's in your late 20's can be a great idea- I am glad I did it. But, I would be sure to find a field that suits your personality and your distaste for rules.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2017, 04:33:16 PM by myrax »

Cwadda

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2017, 07:06:26 PM »
You will always end up working under rules, whether they are imposed by a work place or if they are soft and a result of taking on responsibility. You may want to consider the difference between a career being "fun" and "satisfying". A job can be difficult and suck but still be satisfying.

Masters degrees are a really nice sweet spot education level for employment in private industry. In technical fields, you will be able to advance in a career and get a lot of leverage out of it relative to a BS. An MS in art or literature will not do as much for you and may be only marginally useful (YMMV, and there are significant exceptions of course).

What do you mean by environmental field? That is a big swatch of industry. What is your current education background and what do you have a general interest in? Do you have research experience?

This is certainly not true in the sciences; in the sciences you need a PhD or you will often become a technician.  Engineering I think is different though.... though I would argue engineers are better off with just a BS.
It think the relative value of degrees varies by what slice of the sciences and industry a person is in. My blub is from the point of view of having a PhD, working in environmental geology for 12 years as a consultant, being involved in hiring and project management, and working with a lot of environmental engineers at small and large firms. For those situations, I'd say what I wrote above is pretty spot on. Looking at the options for friends in say, biotechnology, I'd say your assessment of the value of MS vs BS vs PhD is more appropriate.

TL:DR-> talk to people in the specific field you are interested in. Literally call them cold and ask them to go to coffee for 15 minutes to have them tell you about their job and general field.

Glenstache, you did hit the nail on the head. And I know this for a fact because I made a similar topic about 3 years ago when I was still in undergrad.

I talked to about 50 different professionals about employable skills for the environmental/geology fields. Advice heeded, came straight out of college with a job and another backup job.

deek

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #18 on: April 10, 2017, 07:04:57 AM »
Appreciate all the input. I think my two biggest concerns are personal interest and mobility. I think I can probably put up with rules as long as I invest in myself outside of work and maximize my time away from work, which won't be a problem. I will continue looking into it and talking to other professionals while I work on getting a position at a company that will provide at least some of my tuition costs.

garion

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #19 on: April 11, 2017, 08:23:25 AM »
Assistantships qualify students for full tuition scholarships that are accompanied by a stipend. I'm thinking about it very seriously.
Though this would take away from any time I could put toward working on any technical skills to have some side income. Hmmm

The added benefit to assistantships is that they will help you get contacts in your field that could lead to jobs after graduation.

Another option is to look into employee tuition benefits at a school that you are interested in. I work for an organization associated with a university, and many of my colleagues are working on the same masters I took out tons of loans to get, for practically free.

Cwadda

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #20 on: April 11, 2017, 08:55:10 AM »
I made a topic like this a few years ago. It helped by speaking with a number of professional in the field. Glenstache had great input back then. Cheers, Glenstache!

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/looking-for-environment-scientists-and-geologists/msg312330/#msg312330

ooeei

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2017, 09:11:54 AM »
A basic truth of the working world is that the more fun/easy a job is, the less it pays.  Granted there are some exceptions, but in general this is true.  If a job is fun, people are willing to do it for less money, so they pay less money.  If a job is fun and easy, even less. 

Obviously there are some jobs like astronaut or rock star that are fun and pay well, but often they rely on years of crazy hard not so fun work just for a chance at success.  These are almost like a lottery. 

Go to any random college and I bet 1/10 or more students would love to do something "with the environment" when they graduate.  The question you have to ask yourself is, will you do more good for the environment and yourself by taking one of those low paying jobs, or by working a high paying job and monetarily supporting the causes you like?  Heck you might be able to gain some skills in another industry that you are able to use to help the environment some day if you want to take a pay cut, perhaps in ER.

Slow&Steady

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #22 on: April 12, 2017, 02:35:36 PM »
I have a BS in Environmental Science, I did consulting work for almost 10 years and then switched to EHS for a manufacturer.  I did not find that I needed an MS or PhD while in consulting and most of the other consultants that I know that went back to school was for a MBA.  I am now working on a Master's in Health and Safety.  I am several years older than 25 and don't want to actually work in health and safety but that was the key for me to get out of consulting, which I did not want to do anymore.  I do not plan to pursue jobs that will have a strong health and safety daily component but I do plan to use the degree to get a pay raises and potentially oversee an EHS department, where there is staff that will handle the daily health and safety stuff.

When I was getting my BS I remember thinking that I would find a job at a national or state park and would hike most days and do awesome stuff outdoors.  Those jobs proved to want an ecology, biology, zoology, forestry, etc degree but not so much an environmental science.  I learned more about what an environmental scientist does day to day by reading job descriptions then I did from getting my BS.

The environmental field exist because of rules/regulations/permits.  If you are not cool with following rules imagine explaining to somebody else why they have to follow these rules that they sometimes honestly think you are just making up because you are a tree hugger.

I enjoy my job, but it is a job/work.  I would rather be outside hiking or kayaking or gardening or lots of other things but none of those things will pay my bills and allow me to save towards a comfortable retirement, this job allows me to do that with minimal frustrations that impact my personal life.

MrMonkeyMoustache

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2017, 04:20:35 PM »
Not saying you can't or shouldn't do it, but as someone else alluded to, what you like, and what you're good at/will pay well aren't always the same thing. See Mike Rowe's video on not following your passion. To sum it up, "don't follow your passion, but bring it with you."

Optimiser

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #24 on: April 12, 2017, 04:56:54 PM »
I have a friend who will graduate soon with a masters in soil science or something like that. He is having a hard time finding job opportunities with the current political climate (hiring freezes, decreased funding, etc.)

MrMonkeyMoustache

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #25 on: April 12, 2017, 05:04:58 PM »
I guess it would depend on the specific field, and didn't want to say it before, but many majors out there are pretty much useless for 90% of people. There's just no practical job market for them.

I mean, if it's biology, for example, sure, many will succeed greatly. Most will work at Starbuck's or in a completely unrelated field.

Have you looked into something like Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, or maybe even something like Welding? Just saying, there are always viable options outside of college as well. You can make a hell of a living as a pipe welder, especially in Alaska, ND, Canada, and New Orleans (if you become a commercial diver).

Cwadda

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #26 on: April 13, 2017, 10:23:40 AM »
I have a friend who will graduate soon with a masters in soil science or something like that. He is having a hard time finding job opportunities with the current political climate (hiring freezes, decreased funding, etc.)
The political climate has definitely made it harder to get a job with the government, but those jobs are few and far in between to begin with. Industry is where you want to be to gain experience quickly.

hunniebun

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #27 on: April 13, 2017, 10:33:48 AM »
The environmental market is competitive. I manage a government department for contaminated site clean up and am hiring someone for a summer term with a PhD for entry level work.  This person is vastly over qualified on paper, but has no actual in the field experience.  All of my full time employees just have a B.Sc. and no advanced degrees, but the longer work experience tends to override extensive schooling. I would rather someone who has actually done the work, than someone who just studied doing the work.  There is only so much you can gain from institutional learning and dealing with issues in the field, even if only at an entry level is more valuable in my mind.   I am in Canada and it seems like it is a bit of a different market here though. Good luck whatever you decided!

Sibley

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #28 on: April 14, 2017, 09:03:38 AM »
OP - work to live. Don't live to work. There's a big difference.

GilbertB

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #29 on: April 16, 2017, 06:32:46 AM »
Got a second Bachelors at 39, best thing i ever did.
If you have done the research and can finance it debt free, go for it.

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #30 on: April 17, 2017, 08:41:46 AM »
I did an MS in Environmental Studies at 25 from a highly competitive program, and that qualified me to wait tables and pull espresso shots, and also made me competitive for some volunteer jobs that could have possibly someday led to a paying position at an underfunded organization that supported causes that I believed in deeply.

So I put off dealing with the real world for a few more decades and got my PhD...

MrMonkeyMoustache

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #31 on: April 17, 2017, 09:19:34 AM »
Got a second Bachelors at 39, best thing i ever did.
If you have done the research and can finance it debt free, go for it.
Well, that's not necessarily sound advice if you don't know what she's getting her degree in. Computer Science/Electrical Engineering/Petroleum Engineering/etc.? Great! Gender studies/history/sociology/philosophy/general business/biology/etc.? Don't even consider it.

GilbertB

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Re: Still considering a Master's at 25 (in Environmental field)
« Reply #32 on: April 17, 2017, 02:41:50 PM »
Got a second Bachelors at 39, best thing i ever did.
If you have done the research and can finance it debt free, go for it.
Well, that's not necessarily sound advice if you don't know what she's getting her degree in. Computer Science/Electrical Engineering/Petroleum Engineering/etc.? Great! Gender studies/history/sociology/philosophy/general business/biology/etc.? Don't even consider it.
That is what I meant by the "done the research" bit...
The original poster has work experience so I anticipate that this is high ROI and not wall decoration.