The Top 5 Reasons You Should Go to Graduate School

As costs of higher education continue to rise, countless articles and opinions have surfaced discouraging the pursuit of additional degrees.

While graduate school isn’t right for everyone, there are many tangible benefits to earning a higher degree that can often outweigh associated negatives.

Making a personal and financial investment in graduate school can yield significant returns for your career and your future.

Here are our top 5 reasons to go to graduate school:

 

1. Graduate school provides opportunities for highly increased lifetime financial earnings and more career advancement.

GSM earnings stat

In most professions, possessing a graduate degree allows for significantly higher earnings than just having a bachelor’s. In fields ranging from web design to finance, having a master’s degree can bump up salary growth from between 17-20% per year.

In some fields, those who hold a master’s degree reap even more benefit; biology and life science master’s students earn 70% more in those disciplines than those with bachelor’s degrees in the same field.

Many fields now require you to obtain a master’s degree; if not, a master’s is often highly encouraged. For example, while social work graduates with a bachelor’s degree are sometimes able to find employment, most government agencies and positions in clinical social work require a master’s degree to advance.

Even if your chosen field doesn’t require a master’s degree, the increased potential for lifetime earnings is a major incentive to pursue further education. Those holding master’s degrees will typically earn about $400,000 more than their bachelor’s degree counterparts over their lifespan.

 

2. Getting a graduate degree allows you to change career paths.

After a few years in the working world, many people realize that they have selected the wrong path and want to pursue a new career.

Graduate school is a great way to get the education necessary to switch career paths and gain experience in a field unrelated to your time as an undergrad.

MBAs are a particularly useful degree for those seeking to change career paths. An MBA offers students the ability to initially take a variety of courses in business before choosing a 2nd year specialization, as well as the chance to intern after the first year to gain experience and insight into their desired career path.

 

3. Graduate students can often receive a stipend in addition to a free education through teaching and assistantship positions.

Graduate school is expensive, but there are a lot of options to lessen the cost while still pursuing your goals and gaining valuable experience in your field.

Assistantships are programs that provide funding to students for their graduate program, while also having them work for their university in some capacity. Some assistantships even pay students on top of the cost of tuition.

Fellowships are another channel to pursue; there are a wide variety of graduate fellowships available in a multitude of disciplines that typically cover all costs associated with graduate school, ranging from tuition to housing.

 

4. Graduate school provides the chance to become a subject-matter expert in your chosen field.

A lot of bachelor’s degrees are very generalized; while undergraduate majors like marketing are broad and provide a solid overview of the field, a more specialized master’s degree makes you a marketable candidate with a more targeted skill set.

Gradschoolmatch has thousands of specialized graduate and doctoral programs to get connected with; you might even find speciality areas in your field or a related field that you’ve never even heard of that interests you.

 

5. Graduate school allows you to utilize the networks of both your professors and your peers.

When you go to graduate school, you have the opportunity to tap into the network of your professors. Whether it’s writing a letter of recommendation for a position, personally referring you to a doctorate program, or reaching out to their colleagues in industry on your behalf, your graduate school professors are a wealth of knowledge and resources.

Your peers are also a fantastic networking tool. If you have classmates that have previously been in industry, use them to learn more about job application processes and utilize their network to get introductions.

Get to know your classmates and stay in close contact after graduation; there’s a good chance one of them can use their network to help you land a job or introduce you to the right people at some point in your career.

Like this article? Sign up for Gradschoolmatch blog updates, and visit us at Gradschoolmatch.com to start matching with graduate programs for free.


 

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Graduate School: Education, Not Job Training

We’re noticing a significant uptick lately of rendering of the garb over the diminishing value of a graduate education. The negative view, beginning here, pivots largely around the argument that grad school has become something of a career dead-end, with some fields (eg, academic positions) in dire straits. And then there is the additional argument, not one I necessarily agree with, that the rising cost of higher education reflects a growing economic bubble that is bound to burst.

I attribute much of this negativity to our current state of economic stagnation. In past cycles, one could bivouac in graduate school to wait out the downturns, emerging with freshly minted credentials just as the economic storm was clearing. I think the wide-spread carnage of the current mess has deepened the uncertainty compared to prior cycles. This one looks like it will transcend the typical time it takes to earn a doctorate. We aren’t confident the storm will clear when we are through.  But other than that, not much else has changed.

Because the best reason to attend graduate school is, was and will always be because you are deeply interested in continuing your education and/or performing new research in subject matter XYZ. In all likelihood, irrespective of the field you enter, you will emerge with better writing, public speaking, and analytical skills along with specialized knowledge. The marketplace has always placed a high value on these attributes (pdf) and there is no reason to think that won’t continue. I strongly agree with what Roger Whitson has to say about this. Things are not as bad as they appear, but can also be improved.

I would add one caution to his superb advice to grad students that they acquire additional transferable skills while in grad school: Don’t get so thin in your effort that it compromises your ability to fully excel in your primary mission. At the end of grad school, excellence in effort and performance will always open more doors and more career possibilities than something less well achieved.

I’d also like to mention something rarely discussed about the skill set of the typical graduate school professor. When they excel, it is in teaching and research, not in career training. Prospective students should understand that most professors are ultra-specialists with little experience outside of the academy. That fact has far-reaching implications about what they can reasonably be expected to deliver in terms of job advice for their students.

Still, one way to recognize a good graduate program is the level of energy placed into exposing their students to the world of career possibilities. For example, the programs I’ve been involved with sponsor a parade of outside speakers and visitors from non-academic fields for their students throughout the year. Their students acquire a broader career perspectives. Sometimes I worry that we do this too well, that we aren’t doing enough to nudge our outstanding students toward academic careers.

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