Hey everyone! Today I have a great post for you by Jen from Frugal-Millennial.com. Out of all the different college questions that I get from M$M readers, “Should I go to grad school?” is definitely one of the more common ones.
Millennials are in such a weird place where we've been told that college is the only way to go if we want a good job, but then when we get out of school it seems like you need another degree just to compete! Jen took the grad school path and has some really solid points on why it may not be the answer for you. Enjoy! ~M$M
Since the recession began in 2008, applications to graduate schools and professional programs have skyrocketed. Many undergrads, concerned about the weak job market, enrolled in graduate school as a way to make themselves more marketable job candidates.
This may sound like a good idea if you’re a philosophy major whose only prior work experience involves waiting tables or whipping up Frappucinos, but going to graduate school often turns out to be mistake.
Here are four reasons why going to grad school may not be your best option:
1. More debt is not the answer to your debt problem.
Many undergrads, particularly those in liberal arts degree programs, worry about their ability to find a full-time job after graduation. To make matters worse, more than 2 out of 3 graduates have student loan debt, according to The White House.
Some students feel that they will not be able to find a job that pays well enough for them to be able to afford their monthly student loan payments.
In order to make themselves more appealing job candidates, they decide to attend graduate school. Unfortunately, this frequently leads to significantly more debt.
40% of the over $1 trillion dollars in student loan debt in the U.S. comes from graduate school and professional programs, according to a report from the New America Foundation. While an advanced degree may increase earning potential in some cases, the income boost may not be enough to justify taking on massive amounts of debt.
2. Statistics can be misleading.
Schools often lure students in with statistics that paint an incomplete picture. When I decided to pursue my master’s degree in Human Resources, I chose a program that boasted an average starting salary of $70,000 for its alumni.
I knew that half of the graduates were earning less than that, but I didn’t realize exactly how much less they were making. The average beginning salary for entry-level HR professionals is $30,000 annually – which is exactly what my first full-time position as an HR Assistant paid.
3. You’ll be overeducated and under-experienced.
For those who go straight from an undergraduate degree program to graduate school, the “overeducated but under-experienced” problem often rears its ugly head. Employers want to know that you have practical, real-world work experience before they hire you.
They might be willing to hire someone who lacks experience for an entry-level position that doesn’t pay well, but here’s the thing: you’re too expensive.
When they see that impressive master’s degree on your resume, they visualize flashing dollar signs. You might be willing to take the job in order to gain experience, but they know that you’ll leave the second something more enticing comes along.
When I finished graduate school and started job searching, I struggled to find a job. I was flat-out told by several potential employers that I had too much education and too little experience.
4. There is an opportunity cost.
When you decide to go to graduate school, you’re making a choice as to how you’ll spend the next two to five years of your life.
You’ll be attending classes, taking on more debt (assuming that you’re not funding graduate school with cash), and writing countless papers.
Instead of digging yourself further into debt, you could spend those years working full-time, paying off your undergrad loans, investing in a 401(k), gaining a few years of relevant work experience, and increasing your income.
If you’re considering going to graduate school, think about this: what opportunities will you be giving up if you go to graduate school?
One Last Thought
Graduate school often seems like an appealing option, but it can also lead to massive student loan debt. Additionally, an advanced degree doesn’t necessarily make job searching easier – it may actually make it more difficult to find a job because you’ll be overeducated and under-experienced.
If you’re thinking about going to graduate school, make sure to choose a degree program that will be worth both the financial cost and the opportunity cost.