As seniors approach the end of their undergraduate careers, plans for the future are made. For some, that means moving back home, moving to a new city or starting a new job. For others, an undergraduate degree is just the beginning of their education journey with graduate school looming in the background.
But how do you know that grad school is the right path for you? First, you need to ask yourself: Does your career require graduate school or is it a cushion between you and the real world?
If you want to work in law, medicine or academia, obtaining an advanced degree is a crucial step in your career path. Going to graduate school makes sense for those individuals, but others often see graduate school as a resume booster or something to do after getting a bachelor’s degree.
Graduate school isn’t a place to explore different areas of interest and switch programs until you find the right one. It’s expensive, costing upwards of $30-40K per year depending on the field, according to a June 2017 study done by the think tank the Urban Institute.
The cost of graduate school varies depending on the university and the master's program itself. But what’s the point in putting yourself in financial limbo for years to come if a graduate program isn’t a necessity? Compare how much money it costs to go back to school with how much you will profit in your field from this additional degree. Investing too much money into your education could have more consequences than you think.
Sometimes work experiences says more to future employers than the degrees you possess. Someone who has had real-life experiences in a specific career field could be more qualified for the job than someone who has just studied it. A graduate degree does not guarantee employment, and just like with any other application process, it is crucial to be a well-rounded applicant.
Going to graduate school because you cannot find employment also isn’t a smart idea. We saw this happen during the Great Recession in 2008 when jobs were scarce and masses returned to education programs in hopes of gaining future employment. For example, the New York Times reports that there was a 20% increase in the number of people taking the LSAT in October 2009 compared with October 2008. While it is impossible to tell, it makes you wonder how many people truly wanted to study law versus the people who saw law as a financially stable career path.
While graduate school can add a lot to your resume, it isn’t for everyone. It’s for those who have a passion for their specific field and truly need it to advance in their career. It’s not for those who have anxiety about what to do post-graduation. Don’t use graduate school as a next step if you don’t have to, because sooner rather than later, it will catch up with you.