[Today’s post is by staff writer Melanie.]
Graduate school can seem like the logical next step for many people wanting to advance their careers and specialize in a specific field. But with the high price of graduate school, it’s important to consider the return on your investment.
For me, I had always dreamed of getting a master’s degree. It seemed so prestigious – a way to stick out from the crowd and learn about wildly philosophical ideas. But my dream school came at a high price, which I gladly paid, because I believed it was worth it at the time. Although I can’t honestly say I completely regret my decision to go to grad school, I have mixed feelings now about my graduate school experience. Even though, I’ve learned a lot from attending graduate school (it’s a learning experience in and of itself) through my own experiences and those of my classmates, I feel I would have been better off trying other things.
I would venture to say that graduate school is largely unnecessary for a majority of the population. This is coming from someone who was enamored with academia and felt I could have easily lived a life in the white ivory tower. But after realizing there is such a huge disconnect between academia and the “real world,” I no longer wanted to have my head in the clouds, reciting the words of dead philosophers, with the only people that could understand it being my classmates and fellow academia nerds.
I wanted to live somewhere in between – in the firm ground of the real world, immersed in community, but with philosophy as a guide. I realized I didn’t need to pay $60,000 for this privilege.
Aside from wanting my master’s degree for purely selfish reasons, I also wanted to go to grad school so I could focus on my ideas and creativity. I realize that I had put graduate school on a pedestal and that I wanted permission to be creative. It was as if I thought going to graduate school would finally allow me to grow as a creative individual and make me legitimate.
I was buying legitimacy, not earning it.
I don’t recommend going to graduate school as a means to legitimize your career. Additionally, you shouldn’t go to graduate school if:
- You’re wondering what your next step is in your life and career and choose grad school to bide your time
- If you are an artist (save your money for travels, supplies and working as an apprentice instead)
- You are looking for permission, legitimacy to do something
- You can’t find a job and think that grad school is better than being unemployed
It seriously saddens my heart that I know so many people that simply went to graduate school because they couldn’t find a job, or didn’t know what else to do with their life. Somehow going to graduate school is better than trying to “figure it out.” I also know many people who have gotten their master’s and doctorate degrees in the arts and humanities…to then just go back to law school or med school. It’s as if they knew the arts degree was a waste of time and now they were going to study something important that could make them money. I wonder if that’s what they really want or if they are settling.
So I’ve talked enough about reasons why you shouldn’t go to graduate school. Here are some reasons I think you should:
- If you are 100% certain, based on facts, that you can make more money obtaining your degree
- If you can pay for it via tuition reimbursement through your job, scholarships, grants or with your own money
- If your job, or career prospects are holding you back because you don’t have an advanced degree
In addition, here are some alternatives to going to graduate school, because whatever you think your experience is going to be, it will be different than you expected, for better or worse.
- Travel the world
- Volunteer at an organization
- Start a blog
- Be an apprentice
- Take online classes at Udemy or Coursera
- Join the Peace Corps
In the end going to graduate school is your decision. I was so stubborn when people tried to talk me out of it but as I said, I don’t completely regret it. Be sure to consider all factors going into it, and think about your career and financial life after graduate school. It can be so easy to think of what’s ahead of you and not consider future repercussions.
Are you thinking about going to graduate school? Did you go to graduate school? If so, what was your experience?
About The Author: Melanie blogs about breaking up with debt at DearDebt.com and invites others to write breakup letters to their debt as well. She’s accumulated a total of $81k in student loan debt between two degrees. Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. Melanie enjoys travel, art, music, adventure, and of course, personal finance.
Afterword from Brent
I wanted to share with you a great book that partly relates to the idea of NOT going to graduate school (or college at all) by an incredible writer, James Altucher.
James wrote a great book called Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Makes Millions, Live The Dream that I highly recommend everyone reads even if you’re not trying to decided between going to college/grad school or not.
You can download a free copy of the audiobook by clicking here.
If you’re more of a kindle fan, here is the link to download the book.
P.s. Speaking of great books, have you joined the VOSA Book Club yet?
Each month I’ll send you two books that I have read and loved. One book will be a straight up strategic business book and the other will be, what I like to call, “a sneaky business” book because it won’t be a typical business book but the ideas can help your business.
Choose Yourself is part of the VOSA Book Club as are many other great books.
In the first month I even share a book that made me cry like a little baby.
Click here to join the VOSA Book Club. Don’t worry, it’s free.
Image Credit: © Depositphotos.com / HitToon