Thinking About Attending Graduate School? Here’s What You Need to Know Now

The decision to attend graduate school raises a multitude of questions for students to consider in order to ensure that they make the right choice. As graduate school often poses a significant strain on students’ finances, mental well-being, and livelihood, it’s essential for those thinking about furthering their education to assess the actuality of graduate programs.

One of the most important aspects for students to examine involves the validity of their reasons for wanting to go to graduate school. Since graduate programs are serious commitments that present a considerable impact on a person’s lifestyle, your goals for furthering your education should evaluate the long term. Here are several examples of the right reasons to attend graduate school:

The Right Reasons to Attend Graduate School:

The potential to earn a greater salary.

One of the most common reasons undergraduate students decide to go to graduate school involve their desire to earn a higher income. While this is an entirely rational reason to attend graduate school, it should not serve as your only reason to further your education. Increased qualification only increases your potential to earn a greater salary — it does not guarantee it. Keep in mind that a graduate program comes with a hefty price tag as well; therefore, you may want to consider whether your potential greater earning power can lessen your debt in the long term, not heighten it. 

To broaden your career opportunities. 

For several career fields, such as psychology, sociology, and healthcare industries, a graduate degree can open doors to an abundance of advanced career options that an undergraduate degree simply does not provide. If you’re striving for a specific level of positions in your field that can only be made available to you through the acquisition of a graduate degree, you should consider furthering your education.

To transition to a different career path.

Often when students graduate from their college or university with an undergraduate degree, they may find that the position or industry they thought they desired no longer interests them or challenges them enough. If you find yourself feeling this way, it’s no reason to worry! Graduate school allows students to explore a different field than their education in their undergraduate program. 

To further your education in your field. 

There’s rarely a better reason to attend graduate school than simply for the love of education in your field. You chose to pursue a certain industry for a reason — you enjoy it! Graduate programs allow you to dive deeper into the theories and topics of the industry you love and allow you to gain even more essential knowledge for your career.

The ability to participate in more research opportunities. 

Graduate school offers plenty of opportunities to explore the known theories in your field and to participate in funded research regarding these theories. You may even get the opportunity to develop and explore your own theory, earning you credit and recognition in your industry’s community.

To help you find teaching opportunities. 

If you’re interested in teaching in your field of study, earning a graduate degree (such as your PhD) can increase your teaching opportunities, chances for becoming tenured at a college or university, increase your salary, allow you to receive a teaching assistant for your classes, and several other possibilities.

 The opportunity to work on advanced projects and access certain equipment.

The academic world constantly buzzes with opportunity in making new developments in your field of interest. Graduate school presents the possibility for you to become involved in advanced projects and access emerging technology and equipment.

Simply because you want to! 

Graduate school may have always been a goal of yours — go after it! You’ll receive vital knowledge from professors that has been passed down from some of the most notable thinkers in your industry. If you’ve always loved to learn and appreciate the challenges the academic world presents, you may want to consider furthering your education!

Keep in mind that graduate school presents financial, mental, and commitment challenges to any individual. Peterson’s estimates that graduate school averages a duration of 2-7 years, with tuition of 2 years averaging $50,000. While graduate programs offer multiple benefits for your career, your reasons for choosing to pursue a graduate degree should always align with the right reasons for attending. Don’t be afraid to enter the working world for a few years and save up for tuition before embarking upon your graduate school journey! Once you’ve evaluated your situation and decided that graduate school is right for you, it’s time to begin the exploration and application process. 

So, what can you do now to prepare for the graduate school application process in the fall?

Beginning in May, you should begin researching graduate schools and different graduate programs. The Princeton Review recommends you may even want to take a GRE practice exam in order to estimate the preparation you will need before you begin furthering your education. 

By July, you should now begin reaching out to and visiting graduate schools that interest you to learn more about the programs they offer. Explore your options and get a feel for the school and program that feels right for you and your schedule. Additionally, reach out to the O’Brien Center for Career Development and your career advisor with any questions you may have regarding the process of application, touching up your resume, or the next steps you should take.

In August, you should take your first GRE exam and begin your “statement of purpose”. In the following months, you may begin narrowing down your list of desired schools you wish to attend, finishing your statement for purpose, and acquiring your recommendation letters and transcripts. By December, you should have all of your applications ready to go and submitted. Once you’ve done so, you can anticipate your acceptance to furthering your education!

The decision to attend graduate school offers an exciting ability to receive further knowledge in your chosen industry, while additionally presenting further opportunities for you in your career path that may not have been available to you before. While the process of pursuing a graduate degree may present its fair share of both pros and cons, the overall benefits and possibilities you can receive make furthering your education entirely worthwhile. If you’ve reasoned that attending graduate school is the right decision for you, it’s time to take the necessary steps towards furthering your future career success!


Written by: Kerry Reynolds, Class of 2021

By O'Brien Center for Career Development
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