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As the end of the semester is nearing for graduating seniors, students may be weighing whether or not grad school is worth the investment. It can be a fruitful one that greatly benefits some students’ career trajectories, while it has minimal effects on others. Students considering pursuing grad school must weigh the pros and cons before deciding.

Potential job advancement and other opportunities

For some majors, it is mandatory to go to graduate school before many employers will even look at your application. Law and medical schools are typical examples of fields mandating extended education. But what about majors that don’t require it? As more students attend college and graduate with bachelor’s degrees, some are willing to go the extra mile and obtain a master’s degree to stand above their peers or to gain better leadership positions. However, this isn’t a guarantee. Work experience tends to be more valuable than a master’s in some fields, such as entertainment and the arts.

Higher potential earnings vs hefty costs

When students decide whether or not to pursue graduate school, finances play a significant role in the decision. According to Smart Asset, the median earnings of master’s degrees are $1,545 per week and $80,340 per year, compared to the medium earnings of a bachelor’s with a weekly average of $1,305 and $67,860 per year. That is about a $12,000+ increase! In some majors, according to Monster’s.com, several medical, engineering and tech fields quickly pay off in a matter of years.

However, there is no guarantee of a higher salary, and many of these graduate degree plans can accumulate a lot of debt. The average U.S. graduate student loan debt is $70,000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, with some Master’s Degree Programs being more expensive than others. Overall it’s about gaining the perfect balance between the price and profits.

Knowledge vs. time

As employers seek new hires with more work experience, going to graduate school helps give students more specialized knowledge in their fields. Students’ professional skills increase by taking higher courses with opportunities and equipment inaccessible to undergrads. They can work closely with professors that are experts in their field, building connections that lead to more career opportunities. 

However, going through additional years of schooling takes a large chunk of your life. While some fields may only take two years, other fields, like medicine, may take seven years of dedicated time mastering the field before entering the workforce. In degrees that do not require a master’s, going to graduate school means delaying getting into the workforce. Graduate schoolwork is more challenging than undergraduate, meaning more time is consumed completing and studying it. Overall, having your life consumed by grad school can be pretty stressful, contributing to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

What’s right for you? Final Thoughts

After weighing the pros and cons, you have to ask yourself these questions whether or not grad school is right for you:

  • Do I have the time?
  • Am I making a good investment?
  • Will this degree attend to my professional needs? 
  • Do employers value more advanced education or work experience?
  • Will this degree fulfill my passions?
  • Am I open to learning new things?

Reflecting upon these questions is the first step in deciding where the next chapter of your life will head. Do your research, ask academic and career advisors about the decision, and consider the input of professors, friends and acquaintances too. Ultimately, this is your decision.

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