Graduate school is a big decision that needs to be thought out carefully.
An FKD Feature exclusive

Many people who are considering graduate school believe that it’s necessary to get a better job. But whether it be to earn a higher salary, or simply to learn more, deciding to pursue a higher degree is a big decision. There are many factors to consider before you go to grad school.

Tuition

Going to graduate school to earn a higher degree is not cheap! Law school can range from  $12,000 to more than $60,000 per year if you live in-state, while Medical school can range from $30,000 to more than $50,000 per year. (A Ph.D. can be free if you are lucky enough to get funding, or it can cost you out-of-pocket.)You need to do the math and decide whether you can really afford to try to go to school to earn these types of degrees right now, or whether you should wait and save your money.

Timing

Whether you’re attending school to earn a Ph.D., a Juris Doctor, or a master’s, it’s important to know that you will not have much time for anything else, especially if you also have a full-time job. If your job is already a lot to handle, imagine how it would feel having schoolwork on top of that. Studying and assignments will take up a large portion of your time. It is crucial to make sure that it is the right time to earn your degree because you would not want your time and money to go to waste.

There is also no set time to earn a higher degree. Nobody says you have to earn a master’s degree the second you earn your bachelor’s degree. You can wait and save up money or jump right into it. At the end of the day, there is no rush.

Getting there

Going to graduate school or earning a higher degree is not like earning your bachelor’s degree.

The entry exams to both law school and medical school must be studied for extensively, and GPA is also incredibly important. For law school, all that is considered in deciding your admission is your GPA and your score on the LSAT. It is important to be a good student during your undergrad, as you will be competing with others who have 3.5 to 4.0 GPAs.

Sometimes your degree isn’t enough

In particular, law school and medical school have entry exams as well as final exams to earn your degree and licensure; passing the Bar exam allows you to earn your J.D. degree (J.D.), while the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) allows you to earn your medical license.

Also, there are certain occupations that require certification. To become an accountant, you have to pass the CPA or Certified Public Accountant exam, which consists of four individual exams that must be passed within 18 months of taking the first exam. People study night and day for these exams, and it costs about $845 altogether, and there is also a 150-semester hour requirement to earn your CPA license.

Job markets

Often times, people think that a graduate degree such as a master’s, Ph.D. or J.D. will allow them to earn a higher salary and also provide them with better opportunities for work. However, sometimes the reward for earning such a degree is less than expected, as fluctuating job markets and expectations of employers are constantly changing.

For instance, finding a job in the legal field in particular can be difficult because more people graduate from law school than there are jobs available. So, before deciding to spend the money to stay in school to earn a higher degree, it is important to look into job market projections to make sure that you will have a good chance of finding a job after receiving your degree.

Yes, you can actually be overqualified

Even after earning your degree, it can still be challenging to find a job. It is difficult to imagine, but employers might find you to be overqualified, either because they can’t afford to pay you more based on your degree or because your skills exceed what is needed for the job. Employers want an employee who is going to stay for the long-run. About half of Americans are overqualified for jobs and struggle to find employment.

Is the cost worth the reward?

Ultimately, earning a higher degree is not cheap. It costs money, and it takes time and a lot of motivation to stay on track. There is no guarantee of earning the degree once you start. Deciding whether a higher degree is worth it is an individual decision. It is important to keep in mind what you as an individual want and are looking for.

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Header image: Adobe Stock

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Posted 03.02.2017 - 03:15 pm EDT