Is Graduate School The Best Option?

Graduate school sounds like a great option, but what are your reasons for pursuing it? Do you think it will buy you more time before entering the world of work? Do you welcome the intellectual challenge and are you intrinsically interested in the subject matter? Is an advanced degree helpful or required to find employment in your desired field? Will an advanced degree lead to advancement in your field or entry into a new field? Whatever your reason is, there is much information to gather and reflect upon before deciding if graduate school is the right step towards your future.

Consider these questions:

  1. Are you clear about the career you want to pursue? Is a graduate degree required for that particular career, will it make finding a job easier or will it make finding a job more difficult if you’re seen as being over qualified?
  2. Who thinks you should go to graduate school? Are you genuinely interested in pursuing an advanced degree or is this advice that is coming from your parents or friends?
  3. What are career options you can pursue with your B.S. or B.A.? If you are not clear about this answer, meet with a member of the Career Center staff to explore your options.
  4. Will the time and money you spend on graduate school repay you for money and experience you will obtain if you take a job beginning immediately after your undergraduate education?
  5. Do you have a plan about how to handle the financial burden of graduate study?
  6. Is there another option for continued learning? For example, marketable skills and knowledge may be obtained through professional seminars and workshops, or classes at community colleges.
  7. If you delay graduate school in the short-term, are there things you will gain?

Graduate school shouldn’t be pursued because you’re worried that you won’t find a job, or you’re not interested in entering the workforce yet. It shouldn’t be a default option. Also, graduate school shouldn’t be pursued if you’re unsure of your career interests. When applying to graduate school, you will be expected to clearly identify your career goals.

If you’ve decided that graduate school is a good option, congratulations! The next question to answer is should you attend now, immediately after you’ve received my undergraduate degree, or later, after you’ve worked for a few years? There are good reasons to consider for each option. It really depends on your unique situation and your goals.

Reasons to start immediately after completing an undergraduate degree:

  • You already have the momentum and discipline school requires.
  • You may have fewer personal, family and financial obligations now than you will later.
  • Your desired career requires an advanced degree, even for entry-level positions.

Reasons to wait and attend graduate school after working a few years:

  • You want to confirm career goals by working in the field.
  • The graduate program that interests you requires work experience.
  • You need to secure your finances.
  • You want to bring a broader perspective to your studies.
  • You hope to have your employer fund your graduate school.
  • You want to improve your chances of getting into graduate school.