Having a master’s degree or doctoral degree comes with an assortment of perks. But because you will have to devote plenty of your resources to working on it beforehand, there are numerous downsides that come with it, too.
Knowing both the good and bad things about attending graduate school can help you decide so much better whether or not it’s right for you.
In this post, I will talk about 12 of the top reasons for you to consider applying to graduate school based on my own experience. I will also discuss 12 of the top reasons why you should be happy with a bachelor’s degree as your highest educational attainment.
12 Best Reasons to Go to Graduate School
Make more money
Generally speaking, the level of education is proportional to one’s income — the higher the educational attainment, the higher the annual salary. Needless to say, a graduate degree allows a person access to some of the best-paying jobs.
As a matter of fact, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) says that those with a master’s degree and employed full-time make an average of $69,700 per year. On the other hand, those with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $59,600 per year. Full-time employees with an associate degree, meanwhile, make about $44,100 per year.
Specialize in your field
Earning a graduate degree allows an individual to enjoy a higher stature, which gives him or her more credibility in his or her chosen field of specialization.
Having an advanced academic qualification after one’s name establishes the person as an expert, thus allowing him or her to gain admiration and respect as well as increased self-confidence.
Undergraduate studies are all about the student finding himself or herself. In contrast, graduate studies is more focused on enhancing the knowledge and skills an individual obtained while working on a bachelor’s degree.
Just because you have a bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean that you can have the job position of your dreams. While an undergraduate degree is better than no degree, it’s not as good as having a graduate degree in some cases.
Getting your hands on a master’s degree or a doctoral degree makes you qualified for certain roles and functions, such as those that entail important leadership and managerial responsibilities, which might not otherwise be available for you as a bachelor’s degree holder — it could thrust you to a higher and better-paying position within the company.
According to a report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), men with a bachelor’s degree and higher hold an average of 11.9 jobs throughout their lifetime. In women having the same educational attainment, that’s around 13.1 jobs.
For many of those who want a career change, working on a graduate degree program may be the smartest first step to take.
Not only will it allow them to earn a new qualification in a different area or field but also allow them to obtain a fresh skill set that could make them eligible for higher-paying jobs without having to start from the bottom of the barrel.
Improve communication skills
Due to the challenges that attending graduate school adds to the picture, students get the opportunity to further the skills they already have as well as obtain new ones that can make their arsenal of competencies more complete.
And it’s because of this exactly why the resumes of those with a master’s degree or a doctoral degree are complete standouts.
Adaptability and advanced communication, time management and research skills — these are some of the skills that graduate degree holders boast of. Better work ethic and interpersonal skills are also acquired strengths.
Determine career goals
Believe it or not, according to Concrete, the official student paper of the University of East Anglia, approximately 44% of college students have no idea of the industry that they would like to work in after graduation.
For some, 4 to 6 years of undergraduate studies aren’t enough to figure it all out.
It’s a good thing that entering graduate school after graduation may help them develop self-awareness and learn new strategies, thereby enabling them to determine what it is they should be pursuing outside of the campus.
Gain real-world experience
Some of the most valuable things to learn for educational and professional growth cannot be learned through textbooks — there are those that you will have to learn hands-on by means of going through actual life circumstances and situations, in particular within the area of discipline of your choosing.
Graduate school attendees spend less time inside classrooms and more time in libraries and labs and even traveling to conduct research and immerse themselves in areas associated with their graduate degree programs.
Expand professional network
In college, undergraduate students have plenty of opportunities to network, which helps them not only enhance their social skills but also expand their circle and make the hunt for a job after graduation an easier task.
As a matter of fact, networking with faculty members while being an undergraduate may help in the graduate school admissions process!
Connections can make all the difference, and heading to graduate school after earning a bachelor’s degree for 4 to 6 years allows a student to have more time to build a network, sometimes for up to 6 more years, depending on the degree of choosing.
Meet the experts
It’s not just other graduate degree-seeking students and professors that graduate school attendees can network with but also professionals in the areas or disciplines they are trying to obtain further specialization.
Most graduate school programs allow students to have the opportunity to listen to and even work with experts visiting their postsecondary institutions.
This is a wonderful chance for graduate students to learn from the best as well as enjoy prospective recommendations and mentoring if they leave a good impression.
Access current technology
Because graduate studies can be very challenging, which we will talk about in a few alongside other cons associated with earning a master’s degree or a doctoral degree, students are usually given by their respective universities access to cutting-edge technology and state-of-the-art facilities that are not usually granted to their undergraduates.
This allows them to develop additional hard skills that can work to their full advantage in their future endeavors. So, in other words, it can increase their job market value in a manner other than having a graduate degree.
Compared to undergraduate studies, graduate studies involve fewer assignments and more research. It goes without saying that it’s perfect for students who like flexing their note-taking, problem-solving, analytical thinking and investigative skills, among other know-hows.
Research, in a nutshell, is what makes graduate school both exciting and demanding.
But it’s not just any research that you will be doing as a graduate student — you will be asked to conduct something original on a topic of your liking. And then you will work closely with a mentor and defend it before a panel of professionals.
Enjoy college longer
There are a lot of challenges that college brings to the lives of students.
But there are also many wonderful ones, from discovering the interests and passions of students themselves, learning to live independently, acquiring a new set of knowledge and skills, to meeting new people and making new friends, most of which would be their chums for life.
And if you can’t get enough of the many good things about college, attending graduate school gives you an excuse to remain a student while at the same time gearing up for a much brighter future.
12 Reasons Not to Go to Graduate School
Pay too much for education
Are you aware of the fact that, according to a report by US News, total tuition costs for a master’s degree program can amount to more than $100,000 and a doctoral degree program can cost even so much more?
Making earning a graduate degree even harsher on the bank is that, compared to undergraduate studies, there are fewer financial aid opportunities available for graduate students.
In most instances, scholarships available to graduate school attendees are limited to those who are in the writing stage of their thesis or dissertation projects.
Increase student debt
Based on a report by NerdWallet, the average educational debt of bachelor’s degree holders amounts to $28,400, which, according to data provided by Best Colleges, would take them 5 to 20 or even longer to pay off.
The same website says that, on the other hand, it would normally take master’s degree holders anywhere from 6 to 11 years to pay off their educational debt, depending on the loan amount as well as how much an individual with a graduate degree can pay per month — $71,000 is the average educational debt of graduate school grads.
Go off the job market for an extended time
A master’s degree program usually takes 2 years to complete. On the other hand, a doctoral degree program typically takes anywhere from 4 to 6 years to complete. So, in other words, earning a graduate degree is a time-consuming task.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the length of time graduate students earn their degrees will depend on various factors.
Some of them include the area of study, program design and the institution offering the program. Of course, how long before graduate students finish schooling will depend on whether they are attending part-time or full-time.
Miscalculate the challenge
Make no mistake: graduate school is still college.
However, as a report by the University of Bridgeport, which is a private institution in Connecticut, has accurately put it, it’s a more difficult version of college — there are new challenges that graduate school throws the way of students that they did not experience in their undergraduate studies.
So much so that, according to the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), around 10% of students pursuing a STEM master’s degree drop out of school after 6 months and about 17% do so after 1 year.
Numerous things make going to graduate school stressful. And something that makes the road to the attainment of a master’s degree or a doctoral degree rocky is the fact that most graduate students have to hold a job.
True enough, according to a CBS News report, there are more graduate students who are employed than undergraduates.
As a matter of fact, about 82% of them have some type of work — around 50% are working full-time. Meanwhile, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) says that about 76% work at least 30 hours a week.
Develop mental health issues
Based on a survey mentioned in the study conducted by an MIT postdoctoral researcher and a Stanford University research affiliate, more than 15,000 graduate students attending 9 research universities in the US experienced a rise in anxiety symptoms by 50% from 2019 to 2020.
It also added that up to 39% of them screened positive for anxiety disorder.
On the other hand, up to 32% of the said graduate students screened positive for depression. Being an international student can make matters worse because of additional mental health challenges such as isolation from family and friends.
Strain relationships at home
Because of the demands that graduate school requires from students, it’s not unlikely for those who are pursuing a master’s degree or a doctoral degree have very little to no time for their loved ones.
Especially for those who are very poor with balancing their studies and personal lives, losing out on the companionship of the people closest to them is very much likely.
About 12% of graduate school attendees report being parents — being away from home most of the time as a result of their educational commitments may leave their growing kids not knowing them and feeling closer to the other parent.
Lose income for extended time
We earlier established the fact that attending graduate school can be difficult and stressful as well as take up a lot of a student’s time.
It’s because of this why some graduate school attendees, especially those who are swamped with school commitments or have poor time-management or multitasking skills may not be able to work full-time.
Although it’s true that some graduate students are able to hold part-time jobs, it can still keep them from taking advantage of their full earning potential while working on their respective degrees, thus resulting in a loss of valuable income.
Some job-seekers are underqualified.
But then there are also those who are overqualified — individuals who possess a greater amount of knowledge, skills and/or experience than what’s requested in the job posting.
It’s not uncommon for some bachelor’s degree holders to be overqualified, depending on the major or field of expertise.
However, based on a study published by ScienceDirect, master’s degree program graduates are far more susceptible to overqualification than other types of graduates because many employers find it difficult to afford them due to their high asking prices.
Spend time writing thesis
The vast majority of graduate school students are required to write a thesis or dissertation for them to graduate, depending on whether they are working on a master’s degree or a doctoral degree.
In any case, completing any of the said research projects is no walk in the park. Most theses and dissertations are anywhere from 100 to 300 pages in length.
While it usually takes a thesis 2 to 6 months to complete, months of research and development have to be done beforehand. On the other hand, a dissertation usually takes not less than 1 year to write.
Fail to complete
According to a report made by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), around 26% of students who enroll in a master’s degree program do not complete it.
On the other hand, about 24% of students who enroll in a doctoral degree program do not complete it. The non-completion rate for other programs, meanwhile, is 12% to 14% only.
So, in other words, there’s a possibility for you to fail to complete graduate school. Of course, it will depend on how determined you are to complete your graduate degree program and some extenuating circumstances that come your way.
No guarantees of income increase
Earlier while we were talking about some of the good reasons for you to go to graduate school, enjoying a higher salary potential and having better career opportunities were mentioned. Very tempting, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not all the time that individuals with a graduate degree make more money or have increased job market value.
As a matter of fact, the BLS says that the unemployment rates for those who possess a master’s degree and those who have a doctoral degree are 2.6% and 1.5%, respectively. Meanwhile, it’s 3.5% for those with a bachelor’s degree.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.