September 20th, 2010

Master It: Is Graduate School a Must?

Statistically, people who graduate from a four-year institution have higher salaries than those who do not. There are exceptions to this rule, but college graduates are equipped with skills that will allow them to become financially stable. However, the decision of whether or not to pursue graduate school is an entirely different question that has a more complex answer.

Some students choose graduate school for many reasons, including intellectual curiosity and professional advancement. Others choose grad school because they are unsure of what to do professionally or don’t feel like they are ready to enter the workforce. In other cases, layoffs, extended unemployment, job security and financial fears have made many others flock to graduate programs as a way of gaining skills and credentials to survive this economic storm.

Many people think that more degrees equate to a greater chance for financial stability. This is not always the case. The first thing to consider is what that next degree will be. For example, a Master’s in English does not offer that much more in pay. However, an MBA will position a candidate to compete for higher-level positions within their current or prospective companies.

The price of attending graduate school has increased due to the recent high demand of these programs. While the fields of medicine, dentistry, psychology, and law require an advance degree, other industries can benefit as well. Obtaining an advanced degree will allow one to teach as a professor on the collegiate level. Regardless of the road chosen, thorough research should be conducted to ensure that graduate school is essential to the journey.

Research will help to determine whether graduate school is worth the stress, time and money. A few questions to keep in mind are:

• What will your pay increase be with that degree?
• What it will cost you to go back?
• Can you find additional funding to help cover your costs?
• Are there other career options with the degree you are choosing?

Once those questions have been analyzed and answered, one can proceed to answer this very important question: Why are you considering a graduate degree? The answers to that question will vary depending on the person answering. However, most answers will fall into one of the below categories:

Aligns with Future Career Goals

If you have this grand idea that you know requires additional knowledge, then a degree will be the obvious solution. If you have any doubt at all about your professional goals, consider putting off graduate school and, instead, spend some time working on self-assessment and career planning. If you go to graduate school without a clear goal, you will probably end up wasting both time and money. In fact, in some situations, having an advanced degree can actually hurt you in a job search if you also have little or no job experience.

Future Financial Freedom

There is no secret that some advanced degrees will result in future financial freedom for the right individual. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2000 the average worker with a bachelor’s degree earned $52,200, while a worker with a master’s degree earned $62,300, and a worker with a doctorate earned $89,400. However, one must consider the money that they will not be making while enrolled in a full-time program. Most prospective applicants enter graduate school without previously being employed, thus loans are acquired throughout matriculation.

Staying Marketable

While it may not be necessary for all career paths to obtain a graduate degree, it is profitable by allowing one to keep up with skills and training. Additionally, graduate school is a great place for networking as one will encounter and work alongside people who come from all different walks of life.

Career Change

This is an ideal option for those who received a degree in a less-desired field. This presents an option for one to enter their field of choice with the attainment of an advanced degree.

So is it worth it? There is not a clear answer to this question. However, what is certain is that proper research and planning must be conducted before deciding to apply.

Of course, if one decides to go, he or she should make sure that their future income outweighs the cost of attending graduate school. Attending a $40,000 a year program to eventually receive a $30,000 annual salary does not make much sense. Be sure to put forth your best effort and attempt to understand all of the logistics before you begin that first graduate-level class.

About the Author

Joshlyn Ross
A native of Oakland, California, Joshlyn Ross works diligently to share variations of industry news. She also shares words of wisdom and tips for other young professionals looking to capitalize in their respective fields.



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  1. Thanks for your nice articles. I like it very much.

  2. Each person has it’s own choice when it comes to pursuing higher education. The decision, however, should be based on what is practical.

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