After the graduation caps have been thrown, increasing numbers of graduates forgo the job market in lieu of pursuing graduate degrees.  Latching onto the ivory tower is one way of coping with the diminishing worth of our Bachelor’s degrees, a symptom of the still-struggling economy and the fact that Bachelor’s degree-holders are now a dime-a-dozen.

If you think a shiny new Master’s degree will put you ahead of the rest, you might be right.  But, before you crack open those GRE study materials, first examine why you want to attend graduate school.

Lost in uncertainty
Graduate school is an awfully expensive method for putting off your job search.  If you’re only exploring this option because you feel lost, we  urge you to explore career interests through internships or volunteer work first.  If, later on, you decide that graduate school is indeed best for you, you will not be behind your peers; taking time off before grad school may benefit you in many ways, including demonstrating to admissions counselors that you’re serious about the career.  Uncertainty is not a great reason to jump into graduate school, but having taken years to learn that you’re passionate about the career certainly is.

The almighty dollar
Some take the graduate school detour to increase their salary.  But, consider that on average, Master’s students borrow $25,000 to continue studying, and doctoral degree-seekers borrow $52,000.  These numbers aren’t scary if you’re expecting to be filthy rich, but that will likely not be the case.  Your salary may rise, but it will not be astronomically higher with a second degree.  Meanwhile, you will have forgone years of wages and experience in your field.

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Of course, there are exceptions.  Some receive grants and a stipend to study, and others know their degrees will pay off (we’re looking at you, engineers).  But, before you take the dive, check out the Grad School Calculator to get a general idea of whether a graduate program is likely to bolster or bankrupt you.

Pursuit of your passion
It’s no secret that today, the investment into a Bachelor’s degree does not yield the same level of job satisfaction (read: a career you’re passionate about) than it used to.  Graduate school is one way to gain expertise in an area you love, giving you that extra boost towards your dream career.  Maybe.

Graduate school is not a golden ticket to your dream job, either, as it’s meant to be platform to prove yourself as an important contributor to your field, not a substitute for years of work.  Weigh the possibility that years of work, internship, or volunteer experiences may be equally or more valuable than an extra line on your resume.

This article is not meant to discourage you from going after another degree, but to encourage you to take the time to gain some experience and meet professionals in your field before making a decision.  Like marriage, buying a home, or any other major life-altering decision, you need to be absolutely sure about a graduate program before you commit, lest you discover years down the road that you invested in something that did not suit you.  The perfect fit is always worth the wait.

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