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Making a decision for Graduate School

May 23, 2018

How the years have flown! Pre-K, kindergarten, grade school, high school, and finally a bachelor’s degree is in sight. Is graduate school next? Or perhaps a Ph.D.? Here are some concrete reasons to help understand the choice for advanced study.

Parents often find themselves in the role of consultant as their adult children consider this important option to advance their careers.  As with all choices in life, there are pros and cons that play out differently in each circumstance.   Here are some of the issues that your young adults may be weighing.

Reasons to go to graduate school or beyond

  • A graduate degree is required in certain preferred fields:
    • Medical school for doctors
    • Law school for lawyers
    • College professors need a master’s degree at a minimum, and a doctorate will be required for advancement
  • A graduate degree may provide specific benefits:
    • Some states’ education requirements for certified public accountants (CPAs) include so much schooling as to almost require a master’s degree, so completing such a degree (master of science, master of accountancy, or master of business administration) might offer a professional edge
    • Engineering careers can begin with a bachelor’s degree, but if a specialized field is desired, a master’s degree or a doctorate may be required, especially if intending to teach engineering at the college level
    • Today’s bachelor’s degree is much more common than in prior generations. Fields where a bachelor’s degree carried enough weight for success 30 years ago, may now view a master’s degree as a minimum requirement

Tip: Graduate School is highly competitive and requires more time and effort on a daily basis than it took to earn a bachelor’s degree.  Be sure of the commitment required in a field of study before embarking on a graduate program.

Reasons not to go to graduate school

  • It can be expensive
  • It can take a long time to complete, especially if pursuing a doctorate
    • May delay marriage/family formation
    • Generally, all other interests must be set aside (travel and a social life being a couple of examples)
  • If going to grad school is to avoid a significant life event
    • Delay repayment of student loans
      • Debt can continue to grow during in-school deferment
      • Taking on more loans for graduate school will increase debt
    • Having trouble finding a job now
      • Graduate school programs should be carefully considered for career advancement, as some programs or fields may not be the right fit
    • Maintaining “Student” status for too long
      • Time to move past the anxiety of entering the “real world”
    • Hoping to meet a potential spouse
      • This is a questionable reason to attend graduate school
        • It happens, but there are less expensive ways to meet people

Tip: Possessing a graduate degree does not guarantee success. Success depends on knowledge, skill, persistence, and luck — and as Thomas Jefferson reportedly said, “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”