Figuring out the best course of action after four years of college can be tough. At this point, many undergraduates might be thinking about whether to attend graduate school, with factors such as tuition, career path and more coming into play. Before you get into the application process, make sure to read over these tips about whether or not graduate school is the right choice for you.
The first thing you should consider about post-grad options is whether or not you will need a graduate degree for your desired career path. For some fields, obtaining a master’s degree is necessary to reach your dream job. For example, students with goals of becoming anthropologists, counselors, healthcare professionals, secondary-school teachers, social workers and statisticians will need to secure a master’s degree, and the list goes on. In this case, you should make sure that you plan ahead at least one year before graduating since many programs with October deadlines will require GRE scores and recommendation letters. Additionally, if you are entering a career path that requires a graduate degree, you will want to spend some time researching the right programs and potential scholarships.
Graduate school can also be a great option if you are looking to be a stronger candidate in the job market and get ahead in your career. The market has grown increasingly competitive as companies like Google have reached over two million applicants per year, while in 2016, Goldman Sachs reported that they hired only 6% of applicants that year. Jobs in high demand will always prefer candidates with graduate degrees over others, and more students than ever before are securing master’s degrees, making a bachelor’s degree slightly less valuable to employers. If your goal is to start off your career with a higher-than-average salary and you have the resources and funds to pay for school, then going to graduate school is a great option for you.
On the other hand, there are a few reasons why graduate school can be the wrong choice for students. Many juniors and seniors might look at graduate school as a way to put off entering the workforce and get a few more years of school under their belts. If you don’t have a strong passion for your course of study and potential career path, then you may end up in a less than desirable situation. Half of all doctoral students drop out of graduate school before completion of their degrees due to stress and burnout. To top it off, over half of graduate students working towards a master’s degree will borrow over $31,000, with the numbers rising steadily each year. If your focus centers on getting the degree instead of a passion for what you will learn and experience, you may be in it for the wrong reason and the costs will not be worth it. If you are not sure what to do after graduation, going to grad school is not the solution to your problems.
If you are still unsure about graduate school at this point, consider whether or not a graduate degree is really necessary for the skills you will need for your future job. Many companies are beginning to emphasize retraining employees to match their particular organizational culture, with Amazon recently investing $700 million in “upskilling” their workers so that they could be more prepared for current and future jobs. Moreover, some of the skills that companies emphasize, like fast learning, having good communication skills and maintaining an eager mind, are things that can’t be learned with more degrees. In many cases, some of your strengths as an employee can only be learned from work experience, so it’s important to weigh the costs of a commitment to graduate school with the skills you can only obtain through experience.
As you continue to think about your post-graduation options, considering the costs and benefits of graduate school is always a good idea. It’s important to think about your ultimate career goals when deciding which steps to take as a senior, so hopefully some of these tips will guide you into the right direction.