Every undergraduate, at some point in their college career, is faced with the following question: After I graduate, should I get a job or go to grad school? It’s a hard question with no right answer. At least, no answer that’s right for everybody. That means you’re tasked with deciding for yourself. Fortunately we’re here to make the decision a little easier.
Pros of going to grad school:
1. Become an expert on a subject you love
There’s nothing more rewarding in life than finding and pursuing a passion. This is what graduate school is all about! If you’ve got an insatiable thirst for knowledge on one subject, and hope to one day work in that field—even as an academic—then graduate school might be right for you.
2. Smaller classes
As a rule, classes in graduate school are smaller and more intimate than in undergrad. Plus, you take lots of classes with the same people. Students and professors! That means a built-in sense of academic community. You’ll also receive more one-on-one mentorship with professors in your department.
3. Higher starting salaries
As expected, graduates with advanced degrees earn more than graduates with only a bachelor’s. Some jobs may even require a master’s degree, so you might have tough luck without one. However, it’s important to note that standards vary by industry. What’s true for engineering or law may not hold true for education or visual arts.
Cons of going to grad school:
1. More school!
This may be a little obvious, but getting an even higher education means spending even more time at school. If you’re geared up and ready to go, that’s not a problem. But if you’re worn out from four years of studying, researching, and writing papers, then, at the very least, you may want to consider taking a break before heading off to graduate school. You could get a job. You could even pay off some of those student loans!
2. More student loans
While some graduate programs offer fellowships or teaching opportunities, which can defray the cost of continuing your education, most of these programs are highly competitive. That means you should plan on paying for at least some of your graduate degree out of your own pocket. If you don’t have cash on hand, that means more student loans. More debt is never a good thing!
3. You risk becoming a “professional student”
The longer you spend in school, the harder it may be to ever finish. Maybe you just love school too much! One master’s degree becomes two, which becomes a PhD. And so on indefinitely.
The golden rule here is to understand your own motivations.
If you want to go to graduate school to increase your future earnings, to improve your job prospects, and to study a subject you love, then go for it. Especially if those future earning are worth more than the initial cost of your graduate degree! But if you want to go to graduate school for more nebulous reasons—for example, you just love the college life—then your desire may warrant reconsideration.