Have you ever wondered if graduate school is for you? Of course, there are certain professions where an advanced degree is required, like when becoming a lawyer, doctor or psychologist. But for many people, the decision about obtaining a degree beyond their bachelor’s is a difficult one. On one hand, earning a master’s or doctoral degree could open up job opportunities and increase salary. However, it could also put a person in greater debt or, in some cases, make getting hired more difficult. Employers may not want to pay a person more simply because of their advanced degree when someone with just a bachelor’s degree could do the job for less.
The decision to go to graduate school or not may depend on the type of degree someone wants and what kind of job they wish to have, but there are some basic questions someone can ask to determine whether a gradute degree is somethinig they really want to pursue.
Why am I considering getting an advanced degree?
- Because I want to learn more about my field.
- Because I don’t know what else to do.
- Because I want to avoid the “real world.”
- Because I want to make more money.
- Because other people are telling me I should.
This is an important question to ask, and someone’s answers may lead them to a better understanding of what they want to do with their future. Those answers and the decision one derives from them depends on a person’s priorities. For some, making more money may be a good enough reason to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree. For others, this will not convince them to continue down this road.
When thinking about graduate school it is also important to realize what earning that degree requires. The classes will be smaller, and dialogue between students and the professors will be the bulk of most courses. There is a lot of reading and writing. There is a lot of work required, period. Students are treated even more like peers than in undergraduate study. Graduate programs do not teach students skills they should know, and basic knowledge is assumed. This can leave students vulnerable: no one is going to coddle them or blindly accept ideas that are different from their own. Graduate students need to be confident in their perspective and their desired area of study.
Graduate school requires students to narrow their academic focus. Even if somone pursues a graduate degree in their bachelor’s field, they still need to decide what aspect of that field they wish to study further. For example, obtaining a graduate degree in English requires someone to know if they want to study contemporary American Literature, Shakespeare, or Modernism, among other options. There is not time to test the waters.
However, if graduate school is the right fit for a student, it will broaden their educational horizons, teach them how to articulate and research their ideas in a way that is convincing and rational. The lingo of their chosen field will become easier to understand and build off of in their work. A graduate student gains confidence in their ideas.
Whether to attend graduate school or not is a tricky, complicated decision. But it’s one many students have to make, and it’s never too early to start thinking about it.