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Is graduate school still worth it?

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Graphic by Bri Watkins | Special to the Star

Education is unique as it is the one thing that can not be taken from an individual. It is a personal investment that never ends and immediately benefits the recipient. When undergraduate students contemplate continuing their formal education at the graduate level, the decision does not, and should not, come lightly.

Depending on the field of study, attempting to get a graduate degree ranges from ambitious to required. For students of the latter, their undergraduate career may be little more than a necessary stepping stone on the way to their final degree, where they will actively participate in research and network with their equally talented classmates.

But what about students who are not expected to earn a higher degree? Is graduate school worth it?

At first, becoming more educated seems like a slam dunk. The alternative does not have any tangible benefits. But continuing one’s education is not just a button to be pressed or a wish to be granted, unfortunately. The road to graduate school is not without obstacles.

For American students, the cost alone can render the decision moot.Educational resource company Peterson’s claims that graduate students can expect an annual tuition cost of $30,000 for public universities and $40,000 for private institutions. This does not include textbooks or the cost of living. The cost can be offset by financial aid and scholarships, which are a necessity for most graduate students.

The less concrete cost of graduate school is the opportunity cost. Students not attending graduate school expect to enter the workforce after graduation and start their careers immediately, seemingly getting a headstart compared to their peers remaining in school. To continue one’s education in graduate school postpones this anticipated salaried job while still having to pay for school. The eventual rewards of this path are still evident, but for some young people, paying rent and staying fed are issues confronting them in the here and now, regardless of promises of something better down the road.

However, the cost is not without non-monetary rewards as well. The benefits of graduate school are not limited to a piece of paper or extra money. It is a phase of one’s life marked by personal enrichment, fostered in an environment unlike any other. In theory, cost and time should not be the only deterrents keeping hopeful students from research and learning. Any person interested in graduate school should have the opportunity. If students are interested in furthering their education, they should still consider graduate school as a viable option for the future they desire.

2 COMMENTS

  1. For anyone considering going straight from Undergrad to Graduate School with limited real world work experience, consider entering the work-world first, and then going for the Grad school. Why?

    1. You might find you don’t like your chosen field. It happens.

    2. Some employers offer tuition assistance. It helps!

    3. Concepts and theories discussed in class make a lot more sense if you can apply them to real world situations.

    4. When looking for a job with a Masters, but no experience, you will be over-qualified for the entry-level positions, and under-qualified for the higher positions.

    Graduate degrees are expensive. (As if Bachelor’s aren’t, right?) Think it through. . . !

    • Kim Igleheart This is great advice…. in fact, I feel as though that should apply to any college degree across all levels…. I have prior technical work experience in a structured area and it makes many of my classes that much easier to understand simply because Ive experienced what Im doing. In fact Id even go so far as to apply this to teachers and instructors. The best instructors Ive had are the ones who graduated, went and worked in their career, then came back to teach. They have the most realistic outlooks and expectations as well as a much more open mind about the topics they teach about. Many of the “career college student” professors Ive taken may or may not have literally only had one train of thought about any topic and refused to budge from it because “tenure” or “seniority.”

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