Making The Grade: Is Grad School Right?

How to decide if graduate school is the right move for you

graduate schoolIs grad school right for me? The decision to apply to graduate school is a big one. All the time, money, and energy that go into earning a graduate degree are variables that many women consider when making their decision. Here are a few things to think about before you decide.

First and foremost, consider your individual career goals and motivation for earning an advanced degree. Although going to graduate school can be a wonderful educational experience, many industries do not require education beyond a bachelor’s degree.

If your goal is to advance, however, a graduate degree can give you an edge. For instance, many engineers decide to go back to school for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) after working for a number of years. Their MBA combined with their work experience often helps them move to the next level, manager or supervisor. Similarly, many school systems provide salary increases to teachers and other staff for earning a graduate degree or taking graduate-level classes.

For some careers a graduate degree is absolutely essential. If you want to be an attorney, for example, you have to go to law school. If you want to be a medical doctor, you have to attend medical school. Oftentimes, the decision depends upon your career path.

When you’re thinking about graduate school, another concern is money. Can you afford it? Again, this is an individual decision. One option is to take out student loans, which you will repay after graduation. However, this issue ties back into the first point. If earning your MBA will help you get a better job, than it is possible your initial expense will result in a higher return whether it be an increased salary, better benefits, or a more satisfying job. Just as with an undergraduate degree, your graduate education is an investment.

The state of the economy is another important element in this decision. Many people decide to attend graduate school because the economy is bad and they feel a graduate degree will give them an additional playing card with their job search. Again, you need to consider your industry of interest and your career goals. Speak to professionals who already work in jobs that appeal to you. Find out how much of an advantage your graduate degree would be in that field.

Lastly, for those professions where graduate education is essential, I encourage you to reflect on your decision to pursue that degree. Your time as a medical student, for example, will be very long and arduous. It would be terrible to go through medical school and receive all that training only to find out you don’t like being a doctor after it is all said and done. Law school is also very stressful and costly. And, there are many attorneys that do not like practicing the law. Do research, job shadowing, informational interviews and volunteer work that will give you access to the profession you are considering.

All in all, the decision to attend graduate school is similar to choosing a career. It takes honest self-reflection and careful planning on your part. Earning a graduate degree can be an exciting experience. It can also open up many doors for you professionally. Good luck with your decision!

About Amy Ertel

Amy Ertel earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master of Education in Student Affairs Counseling from Southeastern Louisiana University. Previously, she served as a Career Counselor with the Professional Development Office at the Tulane School of Law.

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