Money Matters: Career

Want to Go Back to School? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Sick of your boss nagging you? Thinking that degree (or second degree) would be the best thing right about now? Then it may be time to take the leap and get back in the classroom.

The sluggish economy has made for a tough job market, and that is spurring many people to return to class. If you’re unemployed, you may want to get more school under your belt to boost your resume so you can get hired. Or, if you already have a job, getting more education can help protect you from potential layoffs or help you get the promotion you want.

Tuition levels might seem intimidating. But don’t get scared by the cost. Here are some ways you can make it affordable.

1. Go to an in-state public school.

The average yearly tuition and fees for a four-year undergraduate degree at an in-state public school were $8,244 last school year, compared to $20,770 for an out-of-state public school and $28,500 for a private university, according to The College Board. You can get a Master’s degree for only $7,186 per year if it’s in state and public.

2. Apply for a scholarship.

There are a ton of scholarships out there, and one that will surely be a great fit for you. Our favorite resource is fastweb.com, where you can filter by a ton of different categories. Get searching!

3. Nab some financial aid.

Make sure to fill out a FAFSA, a form which lets you (and your school) you’re your eligibility for financial aid. You can get student loans financed by the federal government, such as the Stafford Loan or Perkins Loan. There are also loans given by private lenders, and your eligibility and interest rate usually depends on your credit score.

4. Start saving!

Start putting aside a small portion of your monthly paycheck for your tuition costs. This is especially useful if you plan to go back to school in the future and you have time to save up a good chunk of money now.

5. Remember student perks.

You can get discounts at movie theaters, sports events and even clothing stores by showing your student ID. This could mean that your cost of living goes down just a bit by becoming a student. (Bargain!)

Top Things to Keep in Mind Once You Land That Job

Whether you just landed a new job (congrats!) or you’re hoping to, here’s what you need to keep in mind to get the most from the new position financially. (Hey, why settle for a paycheck when you can make it your best paycheck ever?)

Always negotiate your salary!

Don’t just automatically agree to the first offer. First, figure out what your skills are worth on the market. Job sites like Glassdoor.com or Salary.com can help you figure out what others are being paid in your job market. If the employer’s offer is lower than what you believe the job is worth, ask for more. Or, tell them you want to think over the offer. This can sometimes result in a higher offer. Whatever you do, never accept a salary that’s lower than what you’re worth. Not only will you be unhappy, but it sets you at a lower level for promotions and raises, since raises are typically a percentage of your salary.

Talk Benefits

Before you say yes to a job, ask about the benefits package.

- Health insurance: Does your employer have a plan? Does the plan cover your spouse and children? What about pre-existing conditions? What’s the deductible? (Many companies are moving to plans with higher deductibles. You want to get the lowest deductible possible.)

- Retirement plans: These days, most companies offer what’s called a 401k. Here, you set aside a certain portion of your paycheck every month into a retirement account, where you can often invest the money in a mutual fund. Sometimes your employer will match your contribution; in this case, be sure to ask how much the company will give. You also get to defer paying taxes on this money until you hit retirement age and withdraw the money.

Other benefits to ask about: does the employer offer life insurance and disability insurance? Does the company offer free educational opportunities? How much vacation time will you get? Some companies also offer profit sharing. Does yours? This means the company shares a percentage of its annual profits with employees.

One thing to keep in mind is to not ask about benefits before getting the job. It will look unprofessional if you ask during an interview. Remember, earning a salary and benefits package that match the value of your skills can mark the difference between being at ease in your new job, and constantly worrying about paying the bills.

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