How do you know if going to graduate school would improve your life? Would it be a good decision for you and your personal values?
You have to be clear on the exact benefits of graduate school for you so you can make a good decision.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of going to graduate school to see if they fit your goals.
Already accepted to a graduate program? You might be interested in our article with 27 great tips for graduate students.
1. You Will Make More Money When You Graduate
The median annual salary for someone with a Masters degree is significantly more than the median salary for someone with a Bachelor’s degree. There is also a significant bump in salary for a person with a Ph.D. compared to a person with a Masters degree.
Before adding “I will make more money” to your Pro’s list, do some research on your industry. Some industries will reward you with a major bump in your salary after completing a Master’s degree or Ph.D. program but for some industries, the bump will be relatively small.
You can look at a report published by Georgetown University in 2015 “The Economic Value of College Majors” and see how much of a difference the choice of graduate school program makes in the potential salary bump.
In the report, a finance major with a bachelor’s degree earns a median salary of $73,000 per year. A person with a graduate degree in finance earns a median salary of $101,000 per year, which is a $28,000 per year bump in salary. You could pay back debt from graduate school fairly quickly with that kind of extra money.
In the same report, they compare the median earnings of a person with a bachelor’s in architecture ($67,000) to a person with a graduate degree in architecture ($76,000), which is $9,000 per year bump in salary. The extra earnings from that degree might not be enough to justify the debt incurred from the program.
Try not to be vague when you estimate the salary increase you need to justify grad school. Crunch the numbers for the debt you will incur, the time you might spend removed from the workforce, and the salary of the position you are hoping to get because of the degree.
Although this report is very helpful, don’t base your decision solely on its findings. It would be far more accurate and helpful if you directly inquire into the salary policies of a company that you actually want to work for and see how they value a grad degree.
2. The Degree Will Give You Status as an “Expert”
There is an automatic status to having a Master’s, M.B.A., or Ph.D. attached to your name. Most people tend to assume you know what you are talking about, at least in the subject area of your degree.
The assumption of expertise attached to these degrees can give you a kind of professional momentum. This can lead to you getting asked more questions and put in charge of more programs. If you do well in those responsibilities, then you earn more opportunities.
The grad degree just gets you started, but how you take advantage of the extra opportunities given to an “expert” can make a dramatic impact on your career trajectory.
3. Some Positions Require a Grad Degree
Not all career options are open to someone with a bachelor’s degree. Careers like being a medical doctor, lawyer, or dentist are completely closed to someone that doesn’t have the required certificate. I’ve listed a few careers that require a graduate level education below.
- Medical Doctor
- Physical Therapist
- Computer and Information Research Scientist
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Urban Planner
- Speech Pathologist
4. Grad School is a Great Place to Network
The majority of job placements happen because of a personal relationship, not because of a beautiful job application or resume. Most studies put the percentage of job placements in the “hidden job market” (positions that are filled without a public job posting) at 70%-80% of all job placements.
A wonderful side benefit of grad school is getting to know your classmates. A lot of the people in your program will have similar goals as you and will end up working in the same industry.
If you all end up working for different companies in the industry, then you will have connections across the industry for potential future job leads. Professors and advisors in your program may also have connections in the industry and could introduce you to potential employers.
Those connections might prove to be an incredibly valuable benefit to your career.
5. Use a Masters or Ph.D. Degree to Work Internationally
If someday you want to move to another country to work, then you will have to deal with the visa requirements of that country.
Some countries are very protective of their job market and will only allow a non-citizen the right to work legally if they are considered an “expert” in their field. The reasoning behind this restriction is to protect the regular jobs in the country for the citizens and only allow foreigners to work if they bring an unavailable skill or expertise with them.
Getting a master’s degree or a Ph.D. automatically moves you into a more rare category of certification. A small percentage of the population have a master’s degree and even fewer have a Ph.D., so it becomes easier to prove to the government of a foreign country that you are an expert worthy of a work visa.
If you have a place in mind where you might want to live and work someday, check out their visa requirements. A good place to start with that research is the website Anywork AnyWhere. The information there is pretty basic, but they link to the appropriate Ministry of the Interior or the local visa granting equivalent.
6. You Will Learn a Ton
During your graduate school program, you will be absorbing an enormous amount of information. You will be required to read and digest piles and piles of books, articles, and reports. A lot of the information will be in the specific vocabulary of the academic field you are studying, so you will be learning a new academic dialect in addition to this raw information.
When you finish your program, you will know more about the material you studied than almost anyone. You will learn new ways of looking at data and new ways of analyzing arguments and outcomes.
Learning all of this material will stretch your mind and greatly increase your depth of knowledge in your field. You may be surprised at how much the act of learning itself will benefit you down the line.
Getting a graduate school degree could benefit you tremendously. Which of these benefits are most important to you?
- A big bump in your salary
- Enhancing your authority/expertise
- Entry into a licensed industry
- Growing your professional network
- The possibility for you to work and live in another country
- You will actually learn a lot
What did you like or not like about this post? Did I miss some big benefits to going to grad school? Let me know with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to get your feedback.
Looking to Upgrade Your Grad School Efforts?
Check out our Resources page. The resources include helpful websites, books, and proven study tools to give you every advantage in your graduate school program.
Getting a good MCAT score is critical to getting into your top medical school choice. What is your MCAT prep plan?
This page is a collection of our MCAT articles including test FAQ’s, top tools, and MCAT test strategies. When possible we link to free tools and resources to help you boost your MCAT score, but some of the tools are paid.
This page is a collection of our GRE articles including test FAQ’s, top tools, and GRE test strategies. When possible we link to free tools and resources to help you boost your GRE score, but some of the tools are paid.
Do you feel like you need to improve your productivity?
Find the strategies and tactics that will take you to the next level in these well-researched books.
Everyone needs help sometimes. The best place to get that help is from other people going through your same situation.
I’ve listed here some of the most popular online communities for graduate students, with the hope that you can find some people to connect with.
Writing is hard.
Learning how to write persuasively in the style that is required by your discipline is even harder.
Your ability to write well is one of your most valuable skills, so don’t be afraid to grab the tools and resources you need to develop it further.
Applying to graduate school is stressful.
One of the worst parts is the standardized test you will have to take as part of the application process.
How do you prepare for these tests so you will get the best score possible?