Why do people go “back to school”?

Why do people “go back to school”? I’m pondering this because of my own situation and because of the choices made by some co-workers. I’m trying to think beyond the typical answers such as “to get a better job” or “to make more money”.

As opposed to “to get a better job”, I believe the real response should be “because I’m tired of my current job but I really don’t want to look for another job so I just start educating myself for something different and see what happens when I’m finished”. Not nearly as impressive of an answer, but at some level it is probably true.

The people who want to make more money probably really mean that they want fame, fortune, and importance and that is probably the motivation for most of what they do. At least when the “going back to school” is reference to obtaining an MBA. Most people who go back to school for an MBA already had a decent paying job and won’t increase their pay by much after completing the degree. There has to be additional motivation besides $.

Another possible reason is “because I’ve been out of school, I’m becoming a grown-up, I’m starting to feel old and boring, and school is more fun than working.” That is a very realistic response, especially if the person is going back to school full-time. That’s part of the reason I’d like to go back to school full-time. It takes a lot of courage to quit your job for a couple of years to chase your youth of the past and your dreams of the future. It also costs much more money, especially if your employer is paying for your part-time tuition.

Why am I going back? I think it’s a combination of responses 1 and 3. And also the Everest theory: because it’s there and it’s something to achieve for person satisfaction, even if you don’t have anything to show for it afterwards. Are there other reasons? Probably. I’m still thinking.

Written by in: Life Reflections,MBA | Last updated on: 2014-May-27 |


  • Jessie MacRae says:

    I have recently returned to school after being out of school for twenty some years. We are doing a project on the different reasons why people return to school. I came across your article when I was looking for reference material. I was wondering if it is OK to use some of you examples in our research?

  • Carlton Bale says:


    Not a problem! Feel free to reference the post and use it for ideas/examples in your paper.

    Going back to school is great. . . getting finished again is even better!

  • Kai Harrekilde-Petersen says:

    I’m one of those (hordes?) that have “gone back to school” to get an (executive) MBA on top of my M.Sc.E degree and 13 years of industry experience in ASIC design.

    So why did I do it? A) I was frustrated by the lack of success from the guys handing down the company strategy and marketing plans – and wanted to understand what the h*** was going on. Ie: I wanted something to talk back at them with, and B) to me it’s FUN to learn and apply new knowledge.

    Will I make more money after I’ve completed the MBA? – probably not. Will I “get a better job”? – depends on your definition of “better”. But will I get a different job? – yes, quite probably, and probably also within the firm that I work for today.

    I’m currently working on my MBA thesis … countdown for May 9th (when my thesis is due) has been initiated – woohoo!

  • Jane says:

    School is the abode of knowledge where people interact with each other, increase social contacts and above all are groomed for a better life. I believe, increase in the cost of living pushes people to think beyond their current job. With blue collar jobs at threat in event of an economic crisis, people want to secure their future with a specialized job degree.

    The major factors that motivate people to join school are a decent pay check, better social status, economic independence and a secured future. If we observe the student’ statistics, we find a good percentage of single moms and blue collar workers among others. Different people have different compelling reasons. There are people who are bored of the current job. They join school for a change in career. A single mom joins school to afford her children’s school fees and growing needs. A blue collar worker aims at economic independence and to pay back the bad debt. As a recent CNN survey suggests, people are so dreaded by the economic deluge that they are pulling out money from their banks and literally storing it “under the mattress”! In such turbulent times when the stock markets are plunging to record lows, people are now viewing education as an excellent investment. Mostly people are encouraged to join school because of the tuition waiver and the evening schedule, allowing them to pursue their day job. A good degree in carpentry or interior designing promises them the long awaited dream home, a flashy car and money for their kids’ college.

    To conclude, for people to be successful at their careers, they need to choose a field after considerable observation such that it best suits their skill set and aptitude. The right person at the right place is always desirable.

  • sam says:

    tanx so much, am using dis 4 my project.

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