As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am getting my Master’s degree. It was a somewhat impulsive decision with regard to the timing. But I always knew that I would seek an education beyond a college education. I have designs on getting a PhD some day as well. And coming from a an educated household, people often ask me how I know graduate school was the right path for me. And I suppose growing up with parents who are professors and having interests in fields that I thought could benefit from a graduate education, I have never really wrestled with whether it was a “right ” idea or not; it was always going to be a matter of timing.
For many people however, graduate school is a well-thought out and planned-out decision as it should be. It’s expensive, for one. It’s also time-consuming for another. And if you’re going to invest time, money, resources, and potential advanced interest in a field of study, it is worth it to do your due diligence. So, how do you know if graduate school is right for you? How do you decide if you should go to graduate school or not?
In the first place, Master’s programs must be distinguished from PhD programs. PhD programs are time-consuming and usually more difficult. PhD programs are for people who are mostly committing their entire careers to a specific field of study, which is why most PhD programs are a full-time commitment. Master’s programs are more manageable and while they are also time-consuming and can be expensive, they are mostly for furthering one’s potential in a broader industry or career path. People who want to teach and research and gain a specific acclamation in their field, usually pursue a PhD. People who want to learn more about their specific industry, as well as have the potential to earn more in a specific career, pursue a Master’s degree.
In today’s world, graduate degrees are beneficial for several reasons. In competition with someone with a college degree, one is usually found more “hire-able.” Furthermore, the investment also allows one to expand interests into areas that may be related to aspects of your industry that you may not have been familiar with. Of course, this is especially so for a Master’s degrees. PhD degrees as stated before, allow one to get into the nitty gritty of a very specific area of interest. Either way, for better or for worse, and regardless of how many people are getting them, graduate degrees are undoubtedly more valuable than college degrees or less.
I will always express my belief that school is not for everyone and that some people can and will succeed without a formal education. But graduate education does provide one with a privileged knowledge base that few people can claim. And it’s not so much in the financial return as it is or as it ought to be, in the opening of one’s mind about the world that surrounds you. But not only the world that surrounds you but also about the world at large – even if the focus is on a particular subject.
So while I can’t give out a particular formula for knowing whether graduate school is right for you or not, I will say that if you’ve started asking questions about it, that’s a good sign. If you’ve wondered if your knowledge base in your field can be expanded with a graduate education – that’s a good sign. If you’re more curious about your field and related areas of interests – that’s a good sign. Maybe take a class or meet with advisers and mentors, and if you decide it’s right for you – take the plunge. If nothing else, you’ll learn a lot more things that you didn’t know, and you’ll learn a great deal about yourself.