Should I Go To Graduate School?

By Sky Ariella - Apr. 26, 2021

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After spending the majority of their years attending high school and college, many people wonder if they should go to graduate school at all. It’s personal, and the commitment comes with many repercussions.

The endeavor of graduate school is a choice that can impact a person’s entire life thereafter. It can enhance their knowledge and qualifications to pursue a career that they want, but it can also cost a huge sum of money depending on your chosen program of study.

Making the decision of whether to attend graduate school is best done by fully understanding the benefits and negatives.

What Is Graduate School?

Graduate school is the process of going to higher education to receive a degree in a more focused subject matter, and finishing graduate school results in receiving a master’s or doctorate degree, which enables graduates to qualify for a job in their field of study.

To be considered for a graduate program, a candidate must have already completed their undergraduate degree. Depending on the program, completing graduate school can take anywhere from one to three years. Each year of which costs an approximate $30,000-$40,000.

Needless to say, graduate school is a commitment, in many ways, to furthering one’s expertise in a chosen field.

Reasons to go to Graduate School

There are over 20 million people who have earned their master’s degree in the United States. This shows that there’s plenty of reasons for people to be motivated to attend graduate school, despite the enormous commitment it is. Below are a few of the top reasons you should go to graduate school.

  1. To become qualified for a specific career path. Many of the jobs that people desire require earning a postgraduate degree. This ends up being one of the biggest reasons that they choose to pursue graduate school. There’s really no way around needing to meet educational requirements for certain careers.

    If you’re committed to a profession with requirements for the level of education that’s accepted, be prepared to take on a few years of graduate school at the very least.

  2. To build up your professional credentials. It’s tough to stand out from the crowd when applying for competitive professional positions. A tactic for beefing up application materials and professional credentials is completing graduate school. It demonstrates a commitment to the field and a level of expertise that can put graduate scholars ahead of their industry competitors.

  3. To gather more knowledge in your field. Becoming a trusted expert in your particular field involves accumulating the necessary knowledge. While it’s possible to achieve this on your own accord, most professionals seek this education by attending graduate school.

    Graduate school is a surefire way of gathering knowledge because you must put forth years of study. You will learn from some of the most educated and qualified people in your industry with a group of like-minded people who have similar professional goals. This encourages becoming well-acquainted with the necessary skills and knowledge.

  4. To make professional connections in your industry. There’s a lot of components that go into crafting a successful career.

    Having the needed qualifications and skills for your target role can land you a position, but having a strong network of professional connections increases your chances of stumbling across these open jobs in the first place. Beyond working in the field, going to graduate school is an excellent way to build up this professional network.

    Professors are accomplished people who have already succeed in the industry, and fellow students are people who will go on to be professionals in your field. Getting to know these people can open up a world of potential opportunities, which draws in a lot of graduate school attendees hoping to make meaningful professional connections.

  5. To potentially earn a higher salary. Getting an education and the advanced skills that this achievement provides goes hand-in-hand with earning a higher salary. Graduating from a post-graduate program illustrates to employers that you have the abilities and know-how to warrant a higher paycheck, in theory.

    Many students are enticed to attend graduate school in an effort to unlock a greater salary in their future position.

Reasons Against Going to Graduate School

  1. It’s expensive. One of the biggest reasons for seeking alternative options to graduate school is the enormous price tag it comes with. Earning a bachelor’s degree is expensive enough, and adding another $80,000 investment to that sum is intimidating. For many positions, it’s an investment that doesn’t yield a promising return.

    While certain professions, such as an attorney or physician, award a high average salary in return for an extensive amount of schooling, others don’t. Spending upwards of six figures on an occupation that won’t bring in that much for another ten years probably isn’t the best financial choice.

  2. It takes a lot of time and commitment. The average graduate degree program takes around two years to complete in full. Two years seems like the blink of an eye once it’s finished, but when you’re in the thick of it, it is endless. In these months, a full-time student’s priority has to be these studies, which simply isn’t an option for many people.

    The effort and time it takes to attend graduate school push many people in a different direction.

  3. It doesn’t necessarily give you hands-on experience. While going to graduate school might give you an excellent education, it often doesn’t provide a great deal of hands-on experience.

    Previous professional experiences in the field are important to many employers because it means that a candidate knows what they’re in for. A recent graduate might take more time to adjust to the working circumstances.

    A lot of people decide not to go to graduate school because it doesn’t award them with this kind of direct professional experience.

  4. You’re not making money. A negative of going to graduate school is that it costs a lot, but in addition to this, you’re not making any money during your years of studying.

    While many students manage to hold down a job during graduate school, it isn’t easy. Every minute that you’re in a lecture, studying, or preparing during graduate school is a time that you’re not earning anything in your field.

  5. Nothing is guaranteed from going to graduate school. While there are many potential benefits to attending graduate school, like getting a good job or a high salary, absolutely nothing is guaranteed.

    If the past year has taught us anything, it is that a lot can change in a short time. The professional world and job market can be an entirely different place after two years of earning a post-graduate degree.

    Although a master’s or doctorate degree could enhance your career in the future, it doesn’t promise any of these things. You could possibly spend your money, time, and effort going to graduate school and receive nothing in return career-wise.

Tips for Making a Decision About Going to Graduate School

The choice to go to graduate school or not doesn’t happen overnight — It takes plenty of pondering and research before someone can make the final call. To help you through the decision-making process of going to graduate school, read through the following tips.

  1. Analyze why you want to go to graduate school. The best piece of advice that you can receive on your journey towards a graduate school decision is to analyze the real reasons that you want to attend. An average of two years is a long time to dedicate for the wrong reasons.

    Having a firm understanding of your educational motivations helps you decipher if these are worthwhile causes.

    For example, a person who wants to go to graduate school because it’s a requirement to become a veterinarian and that’s their dream job is demonstrating good reasons for being attracted to the undertaking.

    On the other hand, a person who is considering graduate school because their parents are pressuring them into it should probably rework their plan.

  2. Speak to people around you. A great resource for individuals that are contemplating graduate school is the people around them.

    Most people have at least a few friends and family members who have perspectives on their experience of attending a graduate school program or going straight into their career after college. Speak with these people and use their valuable insights to make choices of your own.

    While nobody can make the decision for you, it’s helpful to gather the opinions and experiences from people who have already been through it. You might be surprised at what you find from these sources.

    Suppose you don’t know anyone who can give you their thoughts about graduate school, turn to the internet. There are plenty of forum websites that can assist with the inquiry. Post the question on a career-based forum and watch the responses roll in.

  3. Consider the cost to potential earnings ratio. The cost of attending graduate school in the United States makes many people stop in their tracks. The average per year cost of a post-graduate education can equate to a student’s full salary later on.

    That’s why it’s crucial to evaluate the cost of going to graduate school versus the potential earnings in the job you’re studying for.

    Graduate school could be worth it if the journey could lead to a high-paying job that you’re passionate about. However, paying $40,000 a year going to a private graduate school to work towards a career with a median average salary of $50,000 might not be the best investment in your financial future.

    Before committing to a graduate school program, do some serious research about your intended job’s earning potential to avoid a student loan your career can’t repay.

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Sky Ariella

Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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