5 Questions to Ask When Deciding to Go to Graduate School
Attending graduate school is not a decision to take lightly. It requires a one to three-year commitment to intense work and research that is usually much more demanding than an undergraduate degree program. Graduate school is also a financial commitment.
To help make a decision that works for you, honestly answer these five questions:
- Why are you considering a graduate degree? Clarify your career goals and choose a graduate program that aligns with those goals. If you are not clear on your professional aspirations, work on self-assessment and career planning first, then choose a graduate program that will help you to achieve your goals.
- How important is compensation? People who achieve an advanced degree earn, on average, more than people with a bachelor's degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 the average worker with a bachelor's degree earned $54,576, while a worker with a master's degree earned $64,368, and a worker with a doctorate earned $77,904.
- Will a graduate degree make you more marketable? While a graduate degree is not required for many entry-level jobs, employers are often looking for employees who have taken the initiative to sharpen their skill set in a competitive environment. An advanced degree also makes you more marketable for career advancement.
- Do you want a career change? If so, a graduate degree can provide you with a competitive edge. Consider a graduate degree in the field you plan to enter.
- Is the timing right? For some, it makes sense to attend graduate school right after completing an undergraduate program. Others prefer to gain work and life experience before entering graduate school. Whichever is best for you, going to graduate school should align with your personal and career goals. It should not be a default move or a strategy to avoid getting a job. Some graduate programs require work experience, and many people feel that a few professional years under their belts can help them better know their career and have a more mature outlook on school and work. Also, many employers will pay some or all of your graduate school expenses.
Graduate school is a serious commitment, but many find the hard work on the front end improves their lifestyle for the rest of their careers.