Should You Go To Grad School? The Definitive Guide.

Should You Go To Grad School? The Definitive Guide.

grad school advice

Have you ever sat at your desk, hating your job/career/life, but completely uncertain about what to do next? Out of habit, you keep coming back to this thought: “Should I go to grad school?”

Ugh.

Maybe people keep telling you to “get that MBA” or “Get that master’s degree.”

Or maybe you *kind of* have an idea of what you want to do, but you are pretty sure you need more education first.

Or maybe you are just lost, and the idea of going to back to school and wiping the slate clean seems AWESOME.

But…

It’s a LOT of money.

And time.

And seriously, should you do it?

Here’s the definitive guide to help you *finally* make a decision – if you can answer yes to all of the below, then you are all set!  Here’s to your future!

 

Should I go to grad school question 1: Are you 100% sure that you absolutely MUST HAVE THIS DEGREE in order to pursue your profession?

**100% sure means that you’d put your life on the line :).

If you are thinking about a career in medicine, law, or academia, you can skip to the end. Yes, you will need your degree in order to pass go.

But, beyond that – have you talked to at least 5 different people actually working in your prospective field who have assured you that you must have this advanced degree in order to become employed? Or have you just “heard it” or seen a few job applications that *seem* to ask for something more than a BA?

If the second is true, make sure you due your due diligence before you end up spending between $30,000-100,000 per year for a degree that you might not need.

In today’s day and age, you’d be surprised at how much experience trumps education in certain fields, and new fields are being created all the time – faster than universities can create programs for them! (Digital media, anyone? :)).  Sometimes a certificate program and/or real-world experience can go a much longer way than you’d expect!

 

Are you choosing grad school because you really want to do that profession, or as a ploy to buy time to “figure it out.”

Listen, sometimes you need to take a triage job or pursue a lateral move in order to buy time or gain skills in an effort to figure out what you love.

That’s completely okay.

But, signing years of your life (and a car full of cash) away to help you tread water….is not okay.

It’s faster, cheaper, and much less stressful to talk to people first, volunteer, build your network, do informational interviews, and *gasp* read books (like this really helpful one!) to help you figure out if the commitment is worth it.

Grad school isn’t an escape route – it’s a huge effort often associated with lots of debt, time away from friends and family, and lots and lots of work.

Make sure you are EXCITED to do it.

 

Is your school legitimate, and do their graduates get the kind of jobs that you want?

I’m going to rain fury on for-profit institutions here for a moment – but I highly HIGHLY discourage you from getting an MBA or similar degree from somewhere like Phoenix University.  I’ve seen story after story of them taking your money, but not getting you work.

Why is that? Well…they aren’t often respected for what they teach or how they teach it.  Many for-profit universities are considered degree factories rather than amazing academic institutions, and employers know it. So, while you may have the piece of paper – that piece of paper won’t translate into a job.

Now, as always, there are exceptions. If you are currently employed and your employer wants you to get a degree (or pays for it), and that degree aligns with your career in the company – then going to a for-profit that helps you check the box could be an option.

But – if you are changing careers, changing jobs, and thinking of starting from scratch – please take the reputation of the school seriously.

Talk to their alumni, talk to their career center, and make sure that their graduate program has a proven track record of graduates going on to getting jobs in the new field.  Talk to those graduates! Ask tough questions like: “How much did the program/advisor/career center help you get work? How long did it take to get employed? Where the alumni of the program helpful or committed to talking to students?” You know the drill.

Going to graduate school is about the career AFTER you graduate, so be aggressive in making sure that the school sets you up for something great.

 

Finally, if it all goes to pot – can you still afford to go?

There are grants, scholarships, favorable loans from your family, and all sorts of ways to make sure that going to grad school doesn’t cripple you.

(if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, make sure you grab this free workbook first, before you go the grad school route).

You may have done your due diligence, you may be pretty excited but also feeling informed, but you still have a tiny doubt – because you are human!

You are willing to commit, you think it’s the right path, but you know that things may change.

So, is this the kind of loan and lifestyle you can *mostly* afford to take a risk on? Will it cripple you for life? Or have you set it up so you can manage to pay back the loans, get out of the scholarship, or still eat a civil dinner with your family if you either 1) don’t finish or 2) finish but don’t end up working in the field.

Have an honest “worst case scenario” conversation with yourself so that it’s all out in the open. And then take a deep breath and decide.

Also: If you answered yes to all of these questions – sounds like you are in good shape! If you didn’t, here’s some more help to get YOU in the right career!