Graduate studies can be a great career lifter, offer personal enrichment, and help keep you current in your field. For many, it is a great choice, but graduate school is not for everyone. Most graduate programs take between 2 to 5 years to complete (even more at the doctoral level). Graduate school can be stressful, demanding, and require a lot of effort but, if you are up for a challenge, starting a grad program can also be one of the best decisions of your life.
Even if your career does not require a graduate degree, you may want to consider some of the other benefits of earning one. A graduate degree can help you begin your career without having to start at the “entry-level” – many organizations hire applicants for mid-career positions with little professional experience if they hold a relevant graduate degree. People with graduate degrees also statistically earn a higher salary than people without grad degrees. Some professions (such as teaching) automatically pay you more just for having a degree; others take degrees earned into account when determining hiring salary.
Graduate training can also help you keep your job or find a new one. Many jobs require you to stay up-to-date on changing industries and earning a graduate degree can demonstrate to your employer that you are on the cutting-edge of your profession and a valuable employee. On the other hand, if you’re unhappy with your current job and want to start a new career, a graduate degree can give you the skills and knowledge necessary to make the jump to a new field.
Many popular careers require you to hold a graduate degree. If you are interested in becoming a doctor, lawyer, researcher, or college professor you will need to go to grad school. All doctors in the United States have a MD, the vast majority of lawyers have a JD, and almost all professors hold a terminal degree (like a PhD or EdD). Some careers, such as business administration, do not mandate a grad degree, but look VERY favorably upon applicants with one (like an MBA). If you are interested in one of these careers, or another specialized profession, you will almost certainly have to attend graduate school. While students with undergraduate degrees in business have done well in the job market, those who then pursue an MBA tend to have much higher salaries and move up the corporate ladder much more quickly.
Before deciding to apply to grad school, you may want to meet with an admissions counselor or a career counselor to talk about your goals and interests. A counselor can help you find the right program and plan a schedule that works for you. Grad school can be a big commitment; even if you are sure you want to start a program, do a little research and find out about the types of grad programs available before starting an application.