Unstable job market, high unemployment, lay offs left and right: who would want to job search right now? If you’re about to granulate from undergrad, going straight into grad school seems like a good option. You can wait out 2+ years to see if the job market gets better, continue to defer student loan payments, and delay the impending terror of adulthood. Sounds like an easy solution to all your problems. Right?
No. It is not wise to go to grad school willy-nilly to avoid economic uncertainty. Grad school could be a great option for you right now, but it depends on what you envision yourself doing in the future. The decision to go to grad school should involve critical evaluation of your career goals, energy, resources, and finances because it is a huge commitment that can impact your life.
Here are 8 questions you should ask yourself before committing to grad school:
- Why do I want to go?
- Am I ready for the workload and do I have time for it?
- Do I prosper in an academic setting?
- How will I pay for it?
- Is an advanced degree required for my career path?
- Will an advanced degree increase my salary?
- Am I certain that this is what I want my career to be?
- Am I being influenced or peer pressured by parents, friends, mentors, etc.?
There are many more questions you should ask yourself, but these are a good foundation to start with. If you need help answering if grad school is worth the investment, here is a calculator that will help you determine if your degree will increase your salary. Generally, it is a good idea to pursue a graduate degree if:
- The program you are applying for has adequate funding that will allow you to graduate with minimal debt or debt-free.
- Getting an advanced degree is mandatory for your desired career path.
- Getting an advanced degree will exponentially increase your earnings.
The reason you should assess the pros and cons of going to grad school is because of the financial implications. The average debt balance for someone who pursued a master’s degree was $66,000. If someone else is happy to pay for your education, by all means pursue the life of academia and intellectual prose. However, the amount of debt you might be in can impact your career decisions. You might have to settle for a higher paying job in a field you did not want to be in to offset student loan payments, further pushing away your dream job. Also, there is nothing worse than spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours for a degree you realize you don’t want. While it is okay to drop out of academia, absorbing the sunk costs is a hefty price to pay and could have been avoided through self-reflection. The pursuit of knowledge is a noble venture, but the cost of education in the United States burdens the advantages of being an academic.
The stress and costs to grad school can be worth it if the program you are attending is the right one for you. If you have truly reflected and decided that pursuing an advanced degree is crucial to your career development and it’s what you want, then it is worth it. Any debt acquired can be paid off if you’ve calculated your return on investment correctly, so it will not be a burden on your finances. Grad school can open many doors because of the connections and knowledge you gain. The opportunity for personal and professional growth is abundant in these programs because you are surrounded by like minded people who want you to succeed. Even if in the future you realized that attending grad school was not necessary, the experience overshadowed the negatives.
The Bottom Line
The decision to pursue an advanced degree should be made with critical thinking, not a back up plan. Yes, there are so many benefits to pursuing an upper level degree, especially in a time where the job market is unstable in every industry. There is also no shame in going to grad school and realizing that this is not the path you want to take. You will never really know if it is a great option for you until you are in it, but there are many consequences to completing a masters.
This is a terrifying time to graduate, and continuing your education can delay facing reality. However, economic downturns can last for years, and the job market may be worse after acquiring your degree and thousands of more dollars of student loan debt. Running away from real world problems will not fix them, and getting yourself into more student loan debt is not the answer. If the only jobs available are service or retail, it is okay to work them; know that a lot of people will be in your position. You may struggle, but life is full of confusion and turmoil. Being frightened is normal. It is up to you to make the decisions that will lead to your success. Don’t make life changing decisions out of fear because the consequences may cause unnecessary strife.
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