Grad School: The Pros and Cons

Written by Victoria Witchey
Wednesday, 15 October 2008 00:00
With a shaky economy, unprecedented job competition and rising tuition costs, many recent graduates and professionals alike are asking themselves: Is it worth going to grad school? While there’s not a universal answer for everyone, potential students needs to carefully weigh the pros and cons of embarking on a post-grad pilgrimage.

Pro: It’s all about the benjamins
On average, students with graduate degrees earn higher salaries than their bachelor degreed counterparts. In theory, your time and financial investment could pay you back many times over during the two or three decades of your career. And that’s what grad school is- a financial investment. But as with any investment, nothing is guaranteed.

Pro: Open those doors
This one is a no-brainer: Go to grad school, get an advanced degree. This advanced degree will open doors for you that were previously slammed shut. Many companies require their applicants to have a minimum of a master’s degree. With that pretty, framed diploma hanging in your office, you’ll command more authority and respect as an expert in your field.

Pro: More flexibility than a yoga instructor
A grad student’s life is generally more flexible than the stringent 9-5 life. That’s not to say it isn’t busy, but rather you have the ability to designate your time as you see fit. For the most part, you set your own hours and build your own schedule. Have a craving to jet to Vegas for part of the week? As a student, you can probably make it happen.

Pro: Rub shoulders with the best
In grad school, you’ll have the opportunity to work with leaders in the industry and experts in the field. These helpful folks are also known as your professors. While an undergraduate, you probably didn’t take them too seriously and merely viewed them as a means to scoring an A. But in grad school, these are your peers, your colleagues and your hands-on industry informants. You’ll build important contacts and learn from the best and brightest in your field.

Pro: The sheer love of learning
Ah, the love of learning. While not everyone is enthused about gaining knowledge for the sake of expanding their horizons, some do enjoy learning. If you’re considering going to grad school to advance your knowledge about a specific subject, you must harbor some sort of passion or interest in it. Grad school is a whole different ball game in comparison to undergrad. You’re not just taking notes at lectures and taking pop quizzes through a hazy hangover. In grad school, you’re performing your own research, drawing independent conclusions, gaining real-world skills and publishing your results.

Con: Jump out of line

While you’ll gain knowledge in grad school, it will also take a bite out of your work experience- and your resume. Many choose to not attend grad school on the basis that they believe they can advance their careers in the field by doing, not learning. Stepping out of the workforce to go to grad school might be the right decision for some, but others would rather build their contacts and develop their resume.

Con: It’s all about the Benjamins, Part Two

It’s no secret that tuition for grad school can set you back thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of dollars. If you’re already under the burden of undergraduate loan debt, taking on another costly degree can be overwhelming. In addition to the tuition, you’re looking at loss of income. While your 9-5 job netted you fifty grand a year, you’ll be lucky to snag a university stipend for twenty thousand. Being a grad student certainly warrants a step down in lifestyle, often fuelled by ramen noodles and frugal living.

Con: Contents under pressure
Working towards your graduate degree can include a fair amount of stress- dissertations, deadlines, speaking in front of committees and university politics. And on top of that, you have professors grading and critiquing you and your work. If you’re not so thrilled about receiving criticism or carrying the heavy burden of multiple pressures, maybe grad school isn’t your game.

Con: Hold, please
Many students see attending grad school as ‘putting their lives on hold’. While this isn’t necessarily true, the decision to enroll can certainly delay milestones or achievements. If you’ve been considering moving to Tokyo or joining the Peace Corps, grad school will definitely put a hold on those lofty plans. Ditto for starting a family, starting a business or pursuing world domination.

The decision to go, or forgo, graduate school is a life-altering decision. Be sure you carefully weigh your options and consider your situation. Give added focus to your attitudes and habits. Be honest with yourself- if you dragged yourself miserably through your first four years, maybe you’re not cut out for grad school. Assess your circumstances and determine what is the right fit for you. Unlike a pair of boots, there’s no return policy on this baby.
Comments (1)
1 Thursday, 16 October 2008 12:28
I kind of regret not going to grad school. I feel like I shorted myself in the education department.

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