Pursuing a Graduate Degree – Is it Worth the Cost?
As any recent or soon-to-be college grad knows, life after four (or even five) years living in a bubble of classes a few hours a day (and no classes on Fridays!) with parties every weekend is hard to imagine.
Applying to jobs and internships is a draining process, especially in a tough economy, so it is no surprise people consider graduate school. However, this path is probably not for you if you expect something similar to your undergraduate experience.
On a personal note, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison last May, and I am moving to Los Angeles later this summer, where I will begin working towards my masters at the University of Southern California. It goes without saying the decision to attend grad school immediately after college involved a lot of research and soul searching.
Below, I have listed factors to think about as you consider your options, whether you are still in college, a recent graduate or looking to change careers
- Research the industry you hope to enter one day and people who already have your (realistic) dream job – LinkedIn is a great resource for this type of data. Take note of their career paths and ask yourself the following questions.
- Where did they go to college? Graduate school?
- If they have an advanced degree, did they complete it right after graduating from college, or did they work in the industry for a while?
- What is their career/life balance? Does it seem like they have a life outside of their jobs? Is this something you want? Meeting face to face with someone in your field to chat about their experiences is a great way to try on a career without totally committing to it.
If you can establish you will need a graduate degree to advance your career, consider when you should commit to a program. Depending on whether you are working towards a master’s or a PhD, you could spend as little as two years or as many as eight working towards a degree. This commitment may not seem like a big deal in your 20’s, but it is a different story in your 30’s and 40’s, especially if you decide to have a family.
These days, student debt is at an all-time high. Therefore, I think of grad school as an investment in myself – a degree that will help me advance in my career and earn more money in the long run. It is relatively easy to research salaries for any given job, so make sure grad school is worth it, monetarily speaking, before committing thousands of dollars.
Of course, there are countless factors to consider when it comes to life after college, but I hope these points have provided you with insight as to whether graduate school is the right path for you.