Do you really need a graduate degree? Here’s a quick and easy test to find out:
You are considering applying to graduate school because…
- You are bored of your current position.
- You are afraid of entering the job market.
- You are quite interested in a certain field.
- An online quiz like this one told you to.
- None of the above.
If you answered anything but E, the truth is you should stay far away from graduate school. Grad school is expensive and time-consuming, which means only those who truly benefit from graduate-level education should entertain the idea of applying.
So, how do you know if you will benefit? That’s a much better question, and the answers are right here.
You Need It to Advance in Your Career
In some career fields, advanced credentials are mandatory to reach higher levels of employment. For example, social workers, counselors and teachers all can’t get very far in their careers without returning to school to earn a master’s degree or higher. In some cases, this is because of state regulations; especially among professionals in the healthcare field, licensure is not attainable without academic qualifications. However, sometimes the need for upper-level education is imposed by other industry professionals, who expect a certain level of knowledge and skill. If you have noticed that your advancement up your career ladder has stalled for some time, it might be worthwhile to investigate the popularity of graduate-level degrees amongst the next tier of professionals in your field.
You Are Changing Careers
Being bored in a particular position is one thing; abhorring your current line of work and preparing to make a drastic change to your career is quite another. While you probably shouldn’t be investing in grad school if you don’t enjoy your job for a superficial reason (like “your boss is a jerk” or “you don’t like your benefits”) you should absolutely feel compelled to return for additional education if you are pivoting your career into unfamiliar territory. For instance, if you have training in nursing but you want to move into health informatics, online grad schools that specialize in that field will be able to provide you with a crash course in data-related skills and knowledge – as well as an eye-catching credential – to earn you a position on your new career path faster.
You Want Access to Research Opportunities
In a similar vein, if you are eager to participate more frequently in research over the course of your career – perhaps to improve the effectiveness of workers like you or to gain more insight into consumer behavior, business strategies or other misunderstood performance – you should probably go to graduate school, this time for a doctorate. While master’s degrees are relatively quick, two-year programs designed to spit students back into industry, doctoral programs delve deep into specific issues within a field, helping students make new discoveries that can lead to significant changes to how certain fields function. Earning a doctorate doesn’t mean you’ll stay in academia forever, but it will introduce you to research opportunities that you probably would not have had in your current career path.
Side Benefits of Grad School
There are other reasons to go to grad school, but none of them are as compelling as the three listed above – and none make the substantial debt you incur from graduate-level study quite as worthwhile. Still, for whatever reason you decide to take the plunge into a master’s or doctoral program, you will gain a sizable handful of side benefits. At the very least, you will:
- Improve your earning power. On average, graduate degree–holders earn about $17,000 per year more than bachelor’s degree–holders.
- Enjoy new experiences. Grad programs often include projects, events, travel opportunities and other experiences that are new and exciting.
- Expand your professional and personal networks. You’ll meet people in grad school, regardless of whether you attend courses online or on campus. These people can help boost your career or form your personal support system for the rest of your life.
The perks of graduate school make it exceedingly attractive to all sorts of workers, but not all workers truly benefit by enrolling in higher-education programs. You need to think long and hard about the effects grad school will have on your life – and your career – before you apply, so you can be certain to get the most out of your advanced education.
For more great topics on all things college, check out the other blogs on College Basics.