A return to school could open the door to a more lucrative career or generate a salary bump in your current field. For example, physician assistants with a master's degree earn 44 percent more than those with a bachelor's degree, according to 2013 U.S. Census Bureau data. The master's degree wage premium is 43 percent for preschool or kindergarten teachers, while financial services sales agents with an advanced degree earn 89 percent more than those without.
"The biggest hurdle is obviously the financial cost of it," said certified financial planner Erin Durkin, director of financial planning at EP Wealth Advisors in Torrance, California. "Masters' programs are expensive."
That expense can throw a wrench in your financial plan — especially if it means a few years where you're not earning and instead, incurring additional student loan debt, she said. In a recent survey from American Student Assistance, 55 percent of young workers said they would like to go to graduate school but can't afford to take on any more student loans.