Why You Should (and Shouldn't) Go to Grad School

By Tess Campbell Modified on April 24, 2023
Tags : Academics | Careers | Money

Having a hard time deciding if grad school is right for you? Check out these common advantages and disadvantages of grad school.

 Why You Should (and Shouldn't) Go to Grad School

Is grad school in your future? You may be approaching the end of your undergrad and you're starting to think about your options once you graduate. Should you join the workforce or pursue more education? It can be hard to know what the right choice for you would be, but the age-old method of making decisions is a pros and cons list. So, let's start off your list with some of the common advantages and disadvantages of grad school.

Advantages of grad school

Starting off with the positives, check out how grad school can be a great experience:

1. Stand out from the crowd

When you're applying for jobs, it can be hard to set yourself apart from the endless sea of applicants. It's standard now for most applicants to have a bachelor's degree or similar, so taking your education up a notch with a grad degree is a great way to stand out for the crowd. Grad degrees show that you have more advanced knowledge of your field of study, as well as targeted, useful skills, which makes you an appealing candidate.

As an added bonus, you can use your grad degree to leverage for a higher salary than what is originally offered, as you'll have more expertise and essential skills for the role. In the long term, you'll also be considered for promotions over your peers, which will help you earn more money over time.

 Why You Should (and Shouldn't) Go to Grad School

2. Opportunities for research, publication, and travel

Whether you're in a master's or doctoral program, you'll spend more time conducting your own research, or assisting a professor with their research projects. When you conduct research, you have the possibility of finding new discoveries and changing the way the world thinks. You'll also have the opportunity to publish your work and travel to conferences to present your findings to fellow researchers and academics.

Having your work published holds a lot of weight in both academia and the workforce. It shows you've got determination, an eye for detail, independence, and skills in analysis, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.

3. Further specialize in a topic you're interested in

Your undergraduate degree is a great time to explore your potential interests, either within your chosen major or through your elective courses. Once you narrow down what you enjoy studying, then a grad degree is where you can pursue your interest on a much more focused level than an undergrad could offer. Instead of dividing up your time amongst your other courses, a grad degree will have you looking into your area of interest more closely.

We all know the saying, "choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life." Well, the same goes for your education! If you love what you're studying, then you'll feel a strong sense of accomplishment and pride for all the work you put in.

4. Build a strong network

In grad school, you've got a much smaller network than in your undergrad degree. You have fewer classmates and professors, and your social circle becomes more tight knit. This means that you're able to make more powerful connections as you work alongside academic professionals, industry experts, and fellow grad students.

These connections you make are valuable and can help you in your academic journey and future career. You never know who you'll meet that can impact your career and life. Making connections will help you increase your skill set and learn industry tips and secrets that could help you market yourself when job hunting. Then you can use your connections as references when applying for jobs.

Disadvantages of grad school

You've learned what some of the top reasons for going to grad school are, but now let's explore why grad school may not be the right choice for you.

1. It's hard work

Grad school is not for the faint of heart. It's a step up from your undergrad, which means your exams and assignments are harder, your papers are longer, and you'll need to spend more time on research. On top of your own studies, you may also have to work as a teaching or research assistant, grading papers, teaching lessons, and conducting research.

Whether you're in classes for your masters or defending your thesis, professors' expectations for you are much higher than before. You'll need to put in work to overcome academic challenges and emotional stress, and learn to balance your schoolwork with your everyday life.

2. Time commitment

Grad school can extend your time in school by one to six years — sometimes even longer. So, you should really think about if you're prepared to be a student for that long. You may also have to work part-time on the side to help pay for your education, which means you'll have very limited free time where you can socialize with your friends and family.

3. Impact on your career

While many of your peers from undergrad begin to enter the workforce after graduation, you'll delay that step for another year or more. After grad school, you'll enter the workforce at a later age than others with limited work experience due to your time spent studying. While a grad degree will be impressive to employers, it can also work against you sometimes.

Some employers may value work experience over education, in which case you may not be an ideal candidate. Other employers may consider you to be overqualified for their opening. Finding the right job that balances experience and education will take some time.

4. Potentially more debt

Continuing your studies with another degree will mean paying tuition once again. While many grad programs offer financial aid and pay you for your work as a teaching assistant, you may still have costs left over that you'll need to pay. If you took out a loan in your undergrad, you may have to increase your debt and borrow more for your grad program.

There you have it — the pros and cons of going to grad school! After reviewing the top advantages and disadvantages for pursuing a masters or PhD program, what path will you take? Is grad school in your future?

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