Soon it will be one year since I went back to school to get my M.S. in Technical Communication. While I'm enjoying the academic environment and definitely learning a lot, I wonder everyday if it's worth it. Of course my answer is, "I sure hope so!"
I went back to school because the opportunity presented itself and it's something I'd been thinking about for a while. Quite a while, actually: I remember in 2003 after the Columbia space shuttle tragedy being struck with the thought that those people died doing what they loved. At the time I didn't love what I was doing (far from it, actually) and I wished I could figure out what I wanted to do and pursue it. The realities of modern life made staying in my comfort zone more appealing, though, so I stayed in my job and did what I could with it until circumstances gave me the chance to change.
I can't say that becoming a technical communicator is my lifelong dream, as becoming an astronaut was for some of the Columbia flight crew. I was a technical writer early in my career and I enjoyed it, and I think I'll enjoy it even more now as the ways documentation is created and presented have progressed in the digital age. Do I need a master's degree to excel in the field? No. I don't know the statistics but I'd guess less than half of the people who call themselves technical communicators have a master's degree in technical communication. However, times and the economy have changed since I was a technical writer so I'm hoping the degree in addition to my experience will give me that "edge" with employers, bringing my resume to the top of the stack and putting me on that short list for an interview. Since I'll be graduating in December, 2010, I'll probably be looking for that perfect job at this time next year. Hopefully I'll find out then that it was all worth it.