By Jada Bowman. University of Georgia

As graduation approaches many undergraduates contemplate continuing their education at the master’s level, but inevitably that decision involves determining if the benefits outweigh the additional costs.

According to Mary Carlson, a University of Georgia professor whose field of study is personal financial planning with an emphasis in financial therapy, the answer should be straightforward: increasing student loan debt is not advisable if your intended career is not lucrative enough to pay those loans back.

“We have to be careful on just going back school simply for the sake of going back to school to accumulate more education when there really isn’t a drive behind it,” Carlson said.

She occasionally works with psychologists and veterinarians who are looking to pay back student loans that can be as much as $400,000.

“Veterinarians actually come out of vet school with the same amount of debt that a doctor has but, a veterinarian does not make nearly as much money as a doctor makes,” she said.

Carlson explained veterinarians that work with small animals on average make $70,000 to $80,000 a year and for large animals, they make $40,000 to $50,000 a year. Carlson said people should go into debt sensibly and try to minimize the amount of loans needed to pursue their passion.

“Everyone should think about what the end term is going to be. What is your net result from gaining that education? Are you working on your third bachelor’s degree?” Carlson said. “Well, maybe we should look at a master’s or maybe we should look at actually working in the industry for a while before continuing to go back to get more education.”

Colin Luck, a recent graduate from the University of Georgia, agrees with this sentiment. He is currently employed at Amazon as a business analyst in Seattle, Washington, but is planning to get a graduate degree.

Luck was able to pay off his entire undergraduate student loan balance before graduating in December 2018. His student loan debt had reached $12,000, but he paid it off in August 2018.

“I think people lose visibility in how much they’re taking out,” he said, referring to the amount of loans they have. After paying off his balance, Luck said he remains motivated to keep student loans at bay.

Luck thinks the best way to do so is to continue his education through an online master’s program in business administration at Washington State University. He plans to pay for the program out of pocket, using his 10% discount the university provides for Amazon employees. He also plans to apply for scholarships to help lessen the financial burden.

Meanwhile, he said he understands what the costs will be, explaining that in total, the degree is about $27,000. It’s a two-year program, allowing him to spread the costs over several months.

Luck said obtaining his MBA will allow him to negotiate a higher salary, making the degree worth his time.

Jada Bowman is a journalism major in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.