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The pros and cons of graduate school

Written by

Dr. Ree Langham

Date

August 12, 2018

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Pros and cons of graduate school

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2017, approximately 21 million people enrolled in a secondary graduate program. Before you make the jump, consider carefully the pros and cons of graduate school. 

People enroll in graduate school for a variety of reasons – i.e. a love of the field, career advancement, curiosity, a higher future pay, etc. Some even enroll out of boredom or to delay entering the “real world.” Keep in mind, the field you plan to enter plays a major role in whether or not graduate school will be beneficial for you. And, while some fields require an advanced degree, others may not.

For instance, if you want to become a physician, psychiatrist, attorney, clinical social worker, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, psychologist, veterinarian, dentist, judge, etc., you will need to obtain an advanced degree (along with a certification and/or a license) to practice. However, if you want to become a CPA (specialized accountant), a computer programmer, or a retail or warehouse manager, an advanced degree, like a master’s degree or doctorate may not be needed.

The pros and cons of graduate School

Pros

  • You can focus on your area of interest
  • An advanced degree helps you get a “leg up” on applicants, who hold only a bachelor’s degree
  • You are able to work with other experts in your field
  • There is a good chance, you’ll make more money with an advanced degree
  • It’s a way for you to advance your career
  • It will help you enter new industries, if you want to change jobs
  • There is a good possibility that you could work on some really cool projects
  • You don’t have to work 9-to-5 like those already in the workforce. Hello, college!
  • If the job market is in a slump, it gives the powers-that-be more time to help it bounce back
  • You’ll be offered more options for paying off your tremendously high student loans
  • You’ll impress your friends, family, bosses, and even strangers with your fancy credentials
  • You’ll get to see college in a new light – as a more mature, worldly adult
  • It may boost your chances of finding a partner at school that matches your passion, skills, and talents
  • An advanced can help you stand out from the other candidates when competing for job opportunities.

Cons

  • Going to grad school can be pretty pricey and it can significantly add to your already blooming student debt. Ouch!
  • It can take a while to complete – between 4 and 7 years, to be exact, depending on the grad program
  • Be prepared to work hard and devote a big chunk of your time to it, because grad programs can be stressful and demanding
  • Sorry, but there’s no guarantee that getting an advanced degree will help you snag your dream job or move up in your current one
  • You’ll most likely have to write a lengthy (like 200-500 pages) thesis or dissertation
  • You’ll have to say “bye-bye” to your social life, because your date will be the library
  • You won’t make much money, while in grad school, so you’ll have to live frugally for a while
  • You may find it awkward to fit in with friends and family, who have not attended grad school

In Summary…

While it can be tough trying to decide, if getting a grad degree is right for you, the best thing you can do is research your chosen field and the job market (past, current, and future) for your area. Also, talk to others in your field – employees and hiring managers for tips and a “real world” perspective of what you should expect, once you enter it. Grad degrees are most definitely needed and even “required” in some fields – but not in others. So, determine your reason for wanting to get a grad degree and base your decision on that.

If you want to get a grad degree because you are passionate about the field – that’s great. Go for it! But, if you are solely trying to gain more money, for instance, as an elementary school teacher, you may not receive a good return on your investment. Remember, this is your life, so make sure you are making the right decisions for your future.

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Written by:  Dr. Ree Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Fisk University, a Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) in Marriage and Family Therapy from Trevecca Nazarene University, and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology from Capella University. She is currently a medical, health & wellness contributor, copywriter, researcher and psychological consultant for Livestrong magazine, Upwork, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of TN, and Disorders.org.

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