The Next Step: Is Graduate School Worth It?

With more college undergraduates today than ever before, every job seeker out there is looking for that competitive edge that will land him or her the career of their dreams. Asking oneself, “Is Graduate School Worth It?” is important in determining the next step in one’s life plan. Options range from the traditional residency to newer online programs that are carrying more than ever before. When weighing the different factors in choosing whether or not to go to graduate school, it’s important to consider factors such as cost, time commitment, field of study and overall learning experience.

It’s no secret that holding an advanced degree can dramatically increase one’s earning potential. According to the US Census Bureau, professional degree holders (doctors and lawyers, for example) earn over twice the income of the average American worker. From a long-term perspective, this makes graduate school seem worth it. But one must take a look at the costs involved with obtaining such a degree to see if it is financially viable. For example, the ultra-exclusive Harvard Law School will set an aspiring lawyer back over $48,000 per year. While a degree from Harvard Law carries prestige and opportunity for a lucrative paycheck, time spent in such a program is time not spent making money working. If an advanced degree is a serious goal, than not only is graduate school worth it, it’s absolutely necessary.

For those with less of a specific idea of what to study, online options abound. I took classes from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide, an online extension of the famous aviation school. Despite having no background in aeronautics, I was accepted into the program. While the professors were very helpful and prompt in answering my questions and concerns, I eventually found it too difficult to balance my full-time job and a full course load at the same time. Many online degree programs have slogans such as ‘Earn Your Degree From Home!’ but these programs still require a serious time commitment. Ultimately, I decided that pursuing an online degree in Aeronautical Science was too costly in both money and time to make graduate school worth it. Should one choose to go this particular route, it is absolutely essential to make sure to budget time as well as money, especially if trying to balance school with work and home life.
Another factor to consider when deciding whether graduate school is worth it is skills acquired during the course of study. No matter what field one selects or what school is ultimately decided upon, upper level writing, research and learning skills will be developed. These are tools that will help anyone find a job and do it more effectively, and suck skills will stay with a student forever. All in all, asking oneself if graduate school is worth it depends on many personal factors, but in today’s ultra-competitive job market, it’s at least worth looking into for everyone.

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