I've Taught 4 Years. Should I Get A Masters?

I get asked this question a lot. 

A friend who taught for Match, now doing Peace Corps, wonders about grad school (an M.Ed) upon her return.  Should she go?

I don't know.  However, I would say...

Grad school is 6 things. 

1. On-your-own intellectual development.  You do that by talking to classmates and a favorite professor or two with whom you get quality time, reading stuff, attending panels, etc. Theoretically you can do this for free.  But a masters is a protected 9 months.  

2. Classes.  You'll take 8 to 10 in a year.  Two will be quite good classes and will bolster #1, the on-your-own intellectual development.  A few classes will be okay.  Some will be frustratingly bad.  Buying these 8 to 10 classes is probably the worst reason to do a one-year masters.  Particularly as MOOCs emerge, and you can get the lectures for free, if you're disciplined. 
 
3. A credential.  The best edu-organizations don't care much about these, particularly if you already have an elite brand undergrad education for signaling.  They care about your track record much much more.  
 
The rest (95%) edu-organizations DO care about this.  Elite university brands matter in particular for non-teaching edujobs.  
 
3b. If you want to teach in a district, know that they typically pay extra for someone with a masters (even though there's great data showing the degree has no linkage to children actually learning more).  In this case, it's almost automatically cost effective to have a masters degree, but not essential to have a prestige university brand versus a cheaper state school.
 
4. A network.  Both the immediate friends that you'll know, plus sometimes alumni you can contact.  Strongest with elite universities. 
 
5. Down time between 2 jobs, and a chance to have fun, go on some dates, etc.  This is legit!  Summer camp for adults with nobody raising eyebrows that you're a slacker.  I had a lot of fun in grad school. 
 
6. Debt plus opportunity cost.  Figure both out.  If you forgo a $60,000 per year job, and borrow $40,000 to attend, the true cost of a one-year masters is $100,000...not $40,000.  If you decide on a TWO year masters program, you just doubled the true cost.  Don't make that decision lightly, unless Mom and Dad are paying the whole thing, which implies they got a lot of dough, which makes it fine to blow their money. 
 
As you consider a masters degree program, try to break down the decision into 6 component parts.  Be honest with yourself about what you want.