If you’re about to graduate, you might be asking yourself, should I go to grad school? After all, you just spent four years studying and shaping your future, so why not continue? Here are 9 questions to consider if you’re thinking about going to grad school.
Should I Go to Grad School?
Certain professions require a master’s degree or a doctorate in order to get licensed. Are you in one of those fields? Then you have a strong case for going to grad school. If you’re not, you might be in a field that requires a master’s degree to even get an interview like in certain business occupations. There are also certain careers that don’t require a graduate degree, but a degree can give you an advantage over the competition if you have one.
According to Census Bureau data, an increasing number of people have been completing graduate school — it has increased 24 percent from 2008 to 2013, from 29 million to 36 million. That is to say that 7 million more people have experienced graduate education than five years ago. Going to grad school is a big decision to make so you should consider the costs and timing before applying.
How Much Does It Cost to Go to Grad School?
Graduate school programs vary widely depending on the type of school and degree. On average, annual tuition for a masters degree ranges from $11,300 for a public school to $24,000 for a private school. Additional costs include textbooks, supplies, and transportation. Public schools are cheaper than private schools and the benefits of both vary as well.
According to 2010 Census Bureau data, master’s degrees can add $12,000 to $17,000 in income over a bachelor’s degree. A PhD can add $30,000 to $51,000. This can add up over the course of a lifetime to hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income. For Biology and Life Science majors, for example, graduate degree holders earn $45,000 more than bachelor’s degree holders.
A graduate degree is an investment and one that comes with risks. It’s possible that you may be in more debt than you can get out of after you graduate. Take a look at the average medical school debt, for example.It’s also possible that your chosen field is not as in demand as you expected it to be. These are all factors you need to weigh when answering the question, “Should I go to grad school?”
Why Do You Get a Master’s Degree?
Some people get a master’s degree for the respect and trust that comes with those extra letters next to their name. Others get it because it’s a requirement for their field. Even more continue in school because they love learning or aren’t quite ready to jump into the job market. Whatever the reason, you need to think carefully before signing on the dotted line to go to graduate school. It’s not as easy as you think.
The emotional and financial toll that going to graduate school causes is not to be taken lightly. Many programs are expensive and difficult and you have to give up a lot of the rest of your life in order to do well. You may have to forgo your full-time job and ignore your friends and family for a while. Make sure that the benefits of going to graduate school outweigh the costs by asking yourself a few questions:
- Will having a graduate degree help me advance in my career?
- Will a graduate degree give me access to new job opportunities?
- Will I earn more as a result of having a graduate degree?
- Will I have knowledge and skills that will make me better at my job?
How Many Grad Schools Should I Apply to?
Most people apply to anywhere from three to eight graduate schools. Applying to graduate school can cost a lot of money per application, because you have to pay for the transcripts, the standardized test scores, postage, and the application fee, which is non-refundable. The fees can be very high for some programs.
As you increase the number of programs you apply to, you also increase your chances of being accepted simply by improving your odds. The laws of diminishing returns apply after a certain point. You might run out of money and the quality of your applications could drop off, too. Think carefully about which programs you want to apply to and give the proper time and attention to creating the best application possible.
What Should I Go to Grad School For?
Choosing a course of study is one of the most important decisions when you decide if you should go to grad school. Do you want an advanced degree in the same field of your undergraduate degree? This might limit your job prospects. You might want to study something that complements your bachelor’s degree instead.
If you got a degree in one field, you might consider getting an MBA so you can pursue a position as a manager in a company. Research is critical for this decision, because you need to know what graduate degree will suit your dream career while also making financial sense.
How Many Years is a Graduate Degree?
It can take anywhere from two to eight years to finish a graduate degree, depending on the type of program you’re studying. Keep in mind that you will have to balance your school, work, and social lives at the same time. It can cause a lot of stress and put your work-life or work-school balance off kilter.
Here’s a list of the average amount of time it takes to complete a master’s degree depending on program type:
|Program Type||Time to Complete Masters|
|Business Administration (MBA)||2 Years|
|Computer Science (MS or MCS)||1-2 Years|
|Education (MEd)||1-2 Years|
|Engineering (MS or MEng)||1-2 Years|
|Health Administration (MHA)||2 Years|
|Library and Information Science (MLS/MLIS)||2 Years|
|Nursing (MSN or MS)||1-2 Years|
|Public Administration (MPA)||2 Years|
|Public Health (MPH)||2 Years|
|Social Work (MSW)||2 Years|
When Should I Apply for Grad School?
A standard application timeline for graduate school looks like this:
May – Start researching grad schools and take a GRE practice test. Your GRE score will determine how much practice you need for the actual test.
June – Sign up for a prep course for the GRE — this can either be in person or online. Register for the GRE general test.
July – Request information from the schools you like.
August – Take the GRE and take it again if you’re not happy with your scores. Draft a statement of purpose.
September – Register for the GRE subject test in November, if necessary. Finalize your list of schools and contact your recommenders. Polish your statement of purpose.
October – Request official transcripts from your college. Send your recommenders any additional information they might need to reference for your letter including a resume or personal statement. Arrange a campus visit at your prospective schools.
November – Give your personal statement to someone who is in the field you’d like to study. Also have honest friends or family read it over to critique it. Take the GRE subject test and have your scores sent directly to your schools.
December – Submit all of your grad applications and keep copies for your records. COnfirm that your recommendations have been sent.
How Do I Choose the Right Grad School?
After deciding on what program you want to study, you need to choose which school to go to. Do your research to find reputable programs that have created successful graduates. Find out which programs are respected by people in your field of choice.
Other things to consider: the cost, the location, the faculty, and what research opportunities are available. Also think about the type of network you will leave school with. Are recent graduates the type of people you would want to associate with?
What about the entry requirements? Ask yourself if you can actually achieve the average GRE or GMAT scores that the school is looking for. Is your GPA sufficient from your undergraduate studies?
Should I Go to Grad School Now?
Going straight from college to grad school is a good decision, because you can maintain the momentum of studying and testing that you built up in your undergraduate studies. You also probably have fewer responsibilities such as being unmarried or without children. If the job market is particularly tough, then it can be a good decision to benefit from an advanced degree.
For many people, though, it’s wiser to get into the workforce for a few years to gain some experience before getting a graduate degree. That way, you can confirm that you want a degree in the field and you have some real-life experience to apply to your studies. If you find an employer who is willing to pay for your tuition (some or all of it), you’re in even better luck. You can work and study at the same time while having it paid for.
Grad school is an expensive and serious decision. Take the time to think about it fully before jumping into anything. You will be thankful that you weighed all of the benefits and costs before making a decision that will affect the rest of your life.
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Student Debt Relief Loan Refinancing Advertiser Disclosure
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
SoFi: Fixed rates from 3.890% APR to 8.074% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.550% APR to 7.115% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.550% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.50% plus 0.04% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
Splash Financial: Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval.com
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay Discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/23/19. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice.
Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 303 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.