Is Grad School Really Worth It?

by Ashley Fern

In today’s struggling economy, entering a graduate program is a hefty decision that should not be taken lightly. It is important to understand every aspect a commitment to grad school entails. The emotional tax and demanding financial concerns are fundamental factors to consider when deciding whether or not to enroll in such a program.

It is helpful to identify the reason you want to go. Do you want to get a better job? Higher salary? Postpone working in the real world? Whatever motivates you to apply needs to be carefully evaluated before a decision can be made. This type of rigorous environment entails hard work, long hours, financial debt and immense amounts of reading, writing and researching.

While it’s possible that an advanced degree may bring you a higher salary, it’s not certain; financial rewards are diminishing. When the supply of workers exceeds the demand for labor, workers’ wages tend to fall. There are too many PhDs given annually for the current academic job market to absorb. In fiscal terms, the value of a PhD is steadily declining.

Some people believe that grad school is a great addition to a résumé. However, employers are more likely to be impressed by your real-world life experience as opposed to simply having attended grad school. Education should supplement your experience, not substitute it.

Rather than grad school, you should try to focus on differentiating yourself and advancing your career with experience and skills. Unless an advanced degree is completely necessary, such as a medical or law degree, it may be in your best interest to focus on real world experience.

It can also be beneficial to work for a few years before applying to graduate programs. In certain instances, companies may even pay for their employees to attend graduate programs. Many graduate schools prefer to accept students who have a few years of work experience under their belts.

Many people believe that grad school is the way to determine what you want to do with your life. This is a costly endeavor, which can be wasteful. Undergrad was the time to explore different industries, not now.

Rather than using graduate school to determine your career goals, it is more advisable to immerse yourself in a variety of different jobs. This will allow you to gain perspective in different work environments, helping to shape your dreams. And you’ll get paid doing it.

Completing a master’s program is an emotional investment as well as a financial one. It is psychologically exhausting and stressful. Many people cannot handle the pressure of this type of environment, so it is important to establish a strong support network.

There are of course benefits of graduate school, especially in the sense of law or medical degrees. However, many industries do not require a master’s degree. Often times a degree can be substituted for experience.

The competition in grad school is ridiculous, especially in programs such as law school where post-graduate success means being in the top 10% of your class. This is the real life version of “The Hunger Games,” where every person is looking out for numero uno. Gone are the days of sharing notes and study tips.

You must decide whether the benefits outweigh the costs when deciding to enroll into a grad program. It is essential to realize what you want out of an advanced degree and how it will affect your future before making such a large commitment. Graduate education demands a considerable investment of your financial and personal resources. You need to be able to dedicate the majority of your time and energy towards earning your degree.