Deciding to go to graduate school is not an easy decision. It isn’t even one decision, because there’s also the question of when to go. For people in different fields grad school means different things. Those who want to be doctors know that Medical school is in their future. Those who want to be elementary teachers may not even contemplate it right away after undergrad.
There are many reasons to go to grad school. In some fields, you cannot get above entry level without a Master’s degree. If that’s the case in your field, then grad school is probably in your future. For others, grad school is needed for specialization. Those with a major in the Social Sciences or Liberal Arts may need to go to grad school to achieve further qualifications. For instance, you went to school for Anthropology and know you want to study Archaeology in the Middle East. You may need some more schooling before you can do that. These majors certainly provide a firm foundation, but may not necessarily give you the specific job knowledge you need beyond entry-level positions.
On the other hand, you may not need to go to grad school, and it would be more beneficial for you to go into the workforce. There are fields where advancement is made almost entirely based on experience, so further schooling right away could just put you further behind. For most computer-related jobs, you’re constantly being updated on new technology anyway, so learning on the job may be better. You can also over-qualify yourself for a job. Salary is based on experience and education level. If a job can be done by someone with a Bachelor’s degree and you’re going in there with a Master’s, they may not give you a fair shot because your salary can be expected to be higher from the beginning.
In addition to the pros and cons of going to grad school, you have to think about getting in. Graduate schools want students who are going to go out into the world and represent them. They want people who are dedicated, and going to stay working in the field they’re trained in. They look at everything. This post, from Discover Magazine, Unsolicited Advice, 1: How to get into graduate school is all about what grad departments are looking for. It’s Physics/Astronomy specific, but the general information is pretty much universal. If you don’t think you’re qualified yet, you can spend a year working in a job related to your field, volunteering, studying for the GRE (or other exams); doing whatever you think you need to do.
Even if you’re going to grad school, there are still many reasons to hold off a year or two:
- Burn out: you’ve been in school for what, 16 years straight? If you need a break now, take it.
- Money: Take some time off of school, pay off undergraduate loans, save up, get some job experience.
- Employer subsidies: In some fields, employers will help subsidize graduate school. But you have to have the job first.
- Job offer: If you got a job offer for the perfect out of school job, and it fits just what you need right now, there’s no need to blow it off for grad school. Grad school will still be there, this opportunity may not.
Bottom line is there are many factors that go into simply deciding to go to graduate school. Take your time; talk it over with friends, family, your advisor, and a career counselor.
Of Possible Interest:
- Graduate/Professional School – all our blog posts on the topic
- Grad School: Now or Later? – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources
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