For students approaching the end of their undergraduate education, the decision to extend their time in university is difficult. Graduate school has its benefits, and some fields even require it, but it can take a serious toll on your wallet and require a grueling full-time commitment for two to three years.
Here is a list of benefits and disadvantages to help you determine if graduate school is right for you.
1. Enhances Your Career
Paying to go to graduate school is an investment in your future. Furthering your education can put you above your peers in the eyes of employers. It could set you apart from the crowd and increase your chances of earning a job after college.
Earning a master’s degree will open up new opportunities. It expands your understanding and makes you a well-rounded job candidate. Additionally, a master’s degree will often qualify you for a career with a higher starting salary.
2. Leads to Personal and Professional Development
Undergraduate school is about the college experience. A lot of time is spent finding yourself, deciding a major, developing lifelong friends, becoming accustomed to living on your own, and exploring new freedom and independence. Graduate school is different. It enables you to enhance your personal and professional skills. You develop the fundamentals you established in undergraduate school and use a master’s degree to lift yourself above the competition.
3. Helps Networking
When it comes to earning a job after school, who you know is just as important as what you know. Graduate school is full of passionate future leaders in your field, so creating relationships with your peers is essential.
Graduate school fosters professional relationships with professors and classmates. Unlike undergraduates, graduate students aren’t skipping classes, coming in late, and scrolling through Facebook or online shopping during class. Graduate school students prove their leadership through their motivation and willingness to spend additional time and money to further their education.
4. Increases Exposure in Chosen Field
Motivation behind attending graduate school should not be strictly financial. To get through two or more years of rigorous work, you need to be passionate about your education. You should have a desire to learn, think critically, and become a master of your field.
At times, graduate students have the opportunity to work with professors, experts, and peers on important research projects. These projects can intrigue the press, earn you awards, and make your name relevant in your field, all before graduation!
5. Provides Access to Added Perks
Graduate school gives students an opportunity (not granted to undergraduates) to use high-end equipment and technology provided by the university. In the information age, knowing how to use high-end technology used in your field increases your personal marketability.
Programs in graduate school often offer opportunities to listen to, and work with visiting professionals. If you leave a good impression, the professionals can aid in your job search after graduation.
1. Not Easy Path
Graduate school exacts a mental, physical, and emotional toll on students. Academically, it is a step up from undergraduate school. Exams and papers increase in length and detail. And let’s not forget the thesis paper. If you are someone who is thinking about going to graduate school because you aren’t ready to leave college behind, think again. You won’t be forgiven for missing or late assignments, and your attendance and work effort will be directly reflected in your grade. Graduate school is a step of adult life. There will be people of all ages, juggling a family life and trying to maintain a steady job so they can pay tuition.
You will watch your friends from undergraduate school go on with their lives, get married, have children, and maintain steady-paying jobs. This can be emotionally tolling when you are still a poor college student. You may hold a looming amount of uncertainty about your decision. We all have had buyer’s remorse after purchasing an expensive meal or piece of clothing. Second-guessing graduate school makes for a much greater magnitude of guilt. Working long days mixing school with a part-time job will amount to a hard lifestyle. This is why it is imperative to be confident in your decision to attend graduate school.
2. May Not Lead to Better Job
Staying in school to earn a master’s degree means you are two or three years behind your peers in the job market. Oftentimes, employers would prefer to hire someone with years of experience in the field, than someone with a better degree.
Obviously, some fields require further education. Aspiring doctors, lawyers, and college professors can’t find a job with only a bachelor’s degree. So, it is important to talk to people in your field. If you have friends who entered the job market straight out of undergraduate, ask them if they made the right decision. It never hurts to take a few years to establish yourself in your field before making a decision to go back to school.
As for salary, graduate school can boost your earning potential, but it’s not a ticket to wealth. A master’s degree will probably earn you a higher starting salary than a bachelor’s degree, but taking years to finish graduate school sets you behind the pack. This gives your peers time to climb the ranks while you are still scraping by to pay for college. By the time you get out of school, your peers could be earning the same salary as you, but you would still have two or more years of graduate school to pay off.
3. Could Make it Harder to Find a Job
“You’re overqualified.” It’s the worst response students who just spent thousands of dollars and years of their life on a degree can hear. But, it’s a real risk. Employers are often required to pay higher salaries to employees with higher degrees. When the job only requires basic knowledge, there is no reason to pay extra for someone with inapplicable knowledge.
Graduate school has its benefits, but it is a high-cost risk. Whether a master’s degree is worth the financial, monetary, and emotional commitment depends on each individual’s inclination and intended career path. In some cases, the extra education is necessary to catapult your career, but if you are able to start your professional life without a master’s, I suggest doing so. You can always go back to school.