EDUCATION IS IMPORTANT.
This thought has been repeated to us since we were young enough to
even conceptualize a life that didn’t revolve around recess. So with all
that pressure pushing us to college, why do post-graduate degrees get
such a bad rap? Books have been published on the subject; it’s even a
running gag in the Simpsons to joke about destitute graduate students.
Entrance into graduate school is mocked as a bad decision, a waste of
money and a cop-out on “real life.” There isn’t a hard and fast rule, but
in many cases these criticisms are accurate.
There’s been an awful lot of hearsay going around about grad degrees
for years, and it doesn’t show any sign of stopping. Everyone’s got their
opinion. Sometimes it’s based on stories of a friend who graduated
and can’t find work despite a Ph.D.; others may base their opinion
from hearing about people who make $30,000 - 40,000 more than they
would with a bachelor’s. Both the stories are most likely true, but they
depend on radically different groundings. Discounting luck, the school
ranking could affect them, as well as individual GPA or research or their
respective majors. These are all individual factors, and are things you
should consider yourself.
The first thing anyone should be considering is the raw cost of higher
degrees. Without a degree of any sort, we’re practically unemployable
in whatever advanced field our bachelor’s degrees will give us access
to. Account for four years of school, paying about $35,000 yearly, and
we’re banking roughly $140,000 on our decision of major. While quite
a sum, it’s required for many of us to even start working. Two years
minimum for grad school, and you’re up to $210,000, and that’s not even
considering the loss of an income if you had already begun working. Is
that a risk you want to take?
Whatever your major, look up lifetime earnings for the field you’d be
going into. Depending on your career path, you could be surprised.
Usually humanities majors are on the lower end of the salary spectrum,
with technical and business salaries near the higher end. Keep in mind
how much of your rough lifetime earnings a higher degree will cost you.
It’s generally a better metric than comparing entry level salaries, and
could give some insight into whether spending another $70,000 is even
possible, let alone a good idea.
Taking a step like grad school is a major decision, despite how much
it feels like a natural continuation of an undergrad degree. And to be
honest, at this point we can’t know what we want from our future careers.
We know what we want now, but if we refuse to take a step outside of
college first, our goals could change immediately when we actually take
that step. I, for one, would rather not sink more money and time before
figuring that out.
The pursuit of knowledge is admirable, and not everything about
life or college is about how financially sound a decision is. That said,
though, there is a point where you need to get wise. Making a financial
mistake this early won’t help at best, and at worst it’s going to seriously
hurt your chances of success later. In the effort to give yourself the best
shot possible, work for a few years in your field, then go to grad school.
You may even decide not to. If you do want to take that leap, there may
be employer assistance to help you, and you’ll have some money and
experience to help you through the years of study ahead. Just be sure you
know what you want before you take the plunge.