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Nobody casually enrolls in a master’s program. The investment of time, money and effort is considerable. But the rewards are also significant, though it can be hard to see that when you’re contemplating what it will take to get to the other side.

If you’ve been thinking about getting a master’s degree but have stayed on the fence for one reason or another, consider these six signs that it may be time take the plunge.

The challenge: Your field is changing rapidly.

The professors in a master’s program are experts in their respective areas of study. They follow trends and have an overview of the industry growth areas. Graduate coursework can give you a glimpse of the future and provide you with skills and knowledge that keep you current as your field evolves.

The challenge: You’ve hit a slump.

If your job lacks challenge and opportunities for advancement seem unlikely, a master’s program can offer a new perspective of your current field or introduce you to an entirely different field. A master’s can help you develop skills to carve out a specialized niche or area of expertise with your current employer, land a more prestigious position elsewhere or perhaps even spur you to become an entrepreneur.

The challenge: You want to change fields.

A master’s degree can help you change lanes, jumping into a new professional field with the confidence and abilities you need to succeed. The decision to get a master’s proves to future employers that you’re serious about this career switch and have a sincere interest in the field — not just bored with your current job. A master’s shows you’re dedicated to making a big professional change.

The challenge: You want to expand your circle of professional connections.

Master’s programs are filled with smart people who want to make a mark in a specialized professional field. You won’t find a better professional networking circle than your classmates who likely also share your same interests and career goals. Your cohort of students will also be a useful group to tap as you navigate the industry in the future. They’ll help you find jobs, provide references, and tip you off to industry trends and new opportunities.

The challenge: You want a plumper paycheck.

While many factors and life decisions affect one’s pay level, education has a strong correlation with earnings.  Studies show that workers with master’s degrees earn more than workers who have only a bachelor’s degree or less education. Over a lifetime, the average income difference between a person with a master’s and a person with a bachelor’s averages out to roughly $400,000, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

The challenge: Your boss says you need one.

Some positions just require a master’s degree. (Want to be a counselor? You’ll need a master’s.) And some companies require a master’s — often an MBA — to be considered for some positions. (Fortunately, many of those same organizations also reimburse workers for some or all of the cost of getting a master’s education.) If you want to rise higher, you may need to go back to school.

Graduate degrees from St. Edward’s University prepare you for the next step in your career. Our programs challenge and empower you to discover your full potential and apply your knowledge in ways that make a difference in your world.

Joel Hoekstra is a freelance writer.