Entrepreneur Spencer Schar gained his master’s degree while working full-time, averaging a 3.85 GPA for the two years. This article will explore the benefits of gaining a graduate degree, providing practical pointers for graduate students keen to enhance their credentials and improve their employment potential.
It may be beneficial for those considering taking a master’s degree but unsure where to start to explore their interests via undergraduate and graduate courses designed to advance their knowledge in a specific area and challenge them to think critically. Alternatively, participating in a research program or internship could provide a valuable means of not only learning about a subject of interest but also acquiring valuable contacts.
When choosing a topic for their master’s degree, the graduate must ensure that the subject aligns with their interests and goals. In addition, they will also need to research funding options to support their graduate studies – for example through graduate teaching, a fellowship, or an assistantship, etc.
Although graduate school is not necessarily the right step for every student, for many, continuing their education is a worthwhile endeavor. Reasons to consider enrolling at grad school include:
- A desire to pursue a specific career that requires additional training
- A passion for a particular subject and desire to gain additional expertise on the topic
- The graduate benefiting from sufficient time and financial resources to support further education
On the other hand, where the student simply seeks to delay finding full-time employment in the “real world” by staying at school or lacks self-defined career goals, a graduate degree may not be the right choice at that particular time.
Many students find their years at university studying as an undergraduate a powerful time of self-exploration. They are free to change majors, test their interests through internships, and join various student bodies. Graduate school is much more specialized, however, and is therefore more appropriate for those with clear career goals and a specific strategy to achieve those goals. Even students who have a plotted a career path may benefit from waiting for a few years following graduation before pursuing a doctoral or master’s degree.
Valid reasons to consider attending grad school straight after graduating include:
- A desire to enter a specialized field such as the legal profession, medicine, or a STEM field following a pre-defined career path
- The graduate securing employment that enables them to pay off their undergraduate education, working towards a master’s as a financial investment to further boost their earning potential
- The student graduating with little or no debt and benefiting from the financial resources to devote to further education
- The graduate securing a grant, fellowship, or scholarship
Valid reasons to postpone attending grad school include:
- A need for the student to clarify life goals and ensure they are going back to school because it is necessary, not just because they have become comfortable with life as a student and are experiencing reluctance to embark on a career in the “real world”
- The student graduating with a large amount of debt that it would be sensible to start paying off before committing more money to further education
- Opting instead to gain real-world work experience to confirm their career goal, helping the graduate to ensure they are pursuing the best fit for them in terms of their values, skillset, and interests
It is important for graduates to give careful consideration to their goals and reasons for pursuing a master’s degree or doctorate. They may find it beneficial to discuss their goals with a graduate school adviser, career coach, faculty member, or other trusted individual in their life.
Earning a master’s degree undeniably presents numerous benefits in terms of helping graduates to progress their career path, as well as allowing them to develop their personal interests and improve their employment prospects. In addition to helping graduates gain entry to a particular profession or meet the requirements of an existing role, gaining a master’s degree can also pave the way for progression to a higher-level qualification such as a PhD. A master’s degree can also aid those contemplating a career change, helping them to gain chartership and providing valuable industry connections and contacts.
Earning a doctorate demands a considerable commitment in terms of time, energy, and finances that goes far beyond undergraduate or master’s-level education. According to research shared by UNT, earning a doctorate degree takes approximately 5.8 years for most students, rising to 7.1 years for those studying the arts and humanities. It would therefore be prudent for graduates to connect with current doctoral students or program alumni to get an accurate picture of what they are signing up for.
There are no set rules for who should and should not attend grad school. Each graduate has their own unique circumstances, motivations, and career goals. However, for graduates contemplating attending grad school, it is crucial to find a program that aligns with their long-term career goals, carrying out careful research before diving in.