Is Grad School Still A Smart Choice?
A grad school degree is the new minimum standard education level for any profession, says the study from Sallie Mae, a company that services education loans and college planning, and Ipsos, an independent market research company. Whether you’re coming to the end of your bachelor’s or you’re a mid-career professional dreaming of a new career path, you may be considering attending grad school. That’s why, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of it. You may be wondering: Is grad school still a smart choice?
A report by the Council of Graduate Schools says the large majority (83.4%) of all first-time graduate students in 2017 were enrolled in programs leading to a master’s degree or a graduate certificate, indicating that many potential students are considering grad school. Furthermore, the large majority (83.4%) of degrees awarded in 2017 were master’s degrees.
The report clearly indicates that graduate education is meeting the increasing workforce demand for master’s degree holders. More and more jobs are requiring a higher skill level, and grad schools are adapting to meet those needs, as evidenced by the increase in grad certificates.
Master’s-level education can be crucial if you are looking to advance your career. But addressing all elements of the opportunity is important in order to decide whether going to a grad school is right for you. We have come up with a few factors that can help you make a smart decision:
What is the purpose of going to a grad school?
Grad school gives an in-depth understanding such that the student usually becomes an expert in the topic of study. A good graduate program also teaches advanced skills in such areas as problem-solving, mathematics, writing, oral presentation, and technology, each as applied to the particular field of study. If gaining mastery in your field is what you desire, then going to a grad school may be right for you.
Do I need to go to a grad school to succeed in my profession?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that career paths related to STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – usually requires a graduate degree to move beyond entry-level jobs. But for marketing, computer science and creative fields, experience and quality of work are more important than having an advanced degree. You can check out job requirements at BLS, a comprehensive resource that matches job titles with the skills and education required for that position, to decide whether you actually need to go to a grad school.
Is it too late to go to a grad school?
Grad school is appropriate at any age and stage of life. You should go to grad school when you are ready to get the most out of the experience. However, it may be more difficult to gain admission after several years in a career as compared to someone fresh out of college simply because of the gap in your education. In that case, it’s advisable to learn more about the education requirements of your chosen school and program before you apply for admission.
What financial aid is available for grad school?
Now it’s time to assess what the grad school may cost you. Calculate tuition, cost of living, books and fees for the program you’re considering. Grad schools can be expensive, but, fortunately, help is available. According to the CNBC 2019 report, Bowdoin College has a well-endowed grant budget, coupled with work study and other scholarship and grant opportunities, meaning that 52 percent of enrolled students who qualify can receive need-based aid. Princeton University has eliminated loans for students who qualify for aid. Instead, it typically award grants that do not need to be repaid. Other colleges may offer similar benefits to help lower college costs.
Check with your school financial aid office to see what options you have that can help you pay for grad school.
Is a grad school worth my investment?
Tuition and fees can translate into high student debt that can take long to pay off. But it can also yield a well-paying job that makes the investment worth it. Employers expect to hire 16.6 percent more new graduates from the class of 2019, according to results of a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Additionally, 96 percent of employers plan to maintain or increase their hiring for college grads.
You can calculate the ROI of the graduate program you’re considering by calculating the average amount it would cost you to pay for the education associated with your desired profession, as well as how much it would cost to pay off your student loans.
Will I be able to study and work at the same time?
Pursuing grad school may mean having to juggle a full-time job while taking evening classes. To combat this problem, you can also look into the possibility of going to grad school part-time while you hold down a job to cover expenses. Alternatively, consider enrolling in online graduate degree programs that offer more flexibility than traditional campus-based grad schools. A report from Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics shows that between 2000 and 2017, more than one-third of total postbaccalaureate students (1.1 million) enrolled in online education. Furthermore, 29 percent of these students opted for online programs exclusively.
In conclusion, enrolling in a grad school can be quite an investment, requires hard work and it can take a lot of time. At the same time, it’s true that grad school can equip you with knowledge, skills, a network and a wider set of career opportunities too. Your choice of opting for a grad school should be a clear and intentional decision you make to get you closer to the career of your dreams.
- Best Financial Aid, The Princeton Review, accessed May 2019, https://www.princetonreview.com/college-rankings?rankings=best-financial-aid
- CGS Graduate Enrollment and Degrees 2017, accessed May 2019, https://cgsnet.org/ckfinder/userfiles/files/CGS_GED17_Report.pdf
- Elka Torpey and Dalton Terrell, “Should I get a master’s degree?,” Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2015, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm
- Employers plan to increase college hiring by almost 17 percent, NACE, November 2018, https://www.naceweb.org/about-us/press/2018/employers-plan-to-increase-college-hiring-by-almost-17-percent/
- Enrollment and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2017; and Financial Statistics and Academic Libraries, Fiscal Year 2017, accessed May 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2019/2019021REV.pdf
- Is it Worth it to get a master’s degree? Fiscal Tiger, February 2017, https://www.fiscaltiger.com/is-it-worth-getting-masters-degree/#How_to_Know_Why_You8217re_Getting_a_Masters
- Students Say Grad School is Becoming the New Minimum Standard, Business Wire, January 2018, https://mms.businesswire.com/media/20180111005582/en/634562/5/3178640_How_America_Pays_for_Grad_School_Infographic_FNL.jpg?download=1
- The 10 best colleges for financial aid, March 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/08/the-10-best-colleges-for-financial-aid/
- The condition of education, postbaccalaureate enrollment, National Center for Education Statistics, May 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_chb.asp
- What is the purpose of graduate school, Boston College, accessed May 2019, https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/offices/careers/pdf/gradschool.pdf