There was a time when a high school diploma was enough of a credential for many jobs. Our world has changed a lot since then, and now often times, a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement. Yet many students choose to continue their education beyond four years of undergraduate study, because adding a graduate degree to their credentials offers several advantages. The pros and cons of graduate school will differ for each individual, because there are so many variables, but here are some widely applicable reasons to go to grad school:
- To potentially increase your salary: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who have a master's degree earn 20% more per week than those with a bachelor's degree. 1 While you may be working in a profession that doesn't require a master's degree, it's still possible that earning one will result in a higher salary. And the good news is that some companies still reimburse employees for college tuition costs, which can make earning a master's degree a win-win situation.
- To transition to a new career: Changing careers is not uncommon in our always-evolving world. While some career changers find they can move into a new field using skills and knowledge they already have, others find that a graduate degree is helpful or even necessary. For example, if you earned a bachelor's degree in English and then decide to pursue a career in business, you may find that you benefit from pursuing an MBA.
- To advance in your career: Depending on your field, a master's degree is frequently required if you want to move up the ladder into higher-level positions. If you want to develop your professional reputation through sharing your knowledge by teaching at the community college level, for example, you'll find that most schools won't hire you without a master's degree. In business settings, a graduate degree is a helpful tool If you're looking to reach the level of director, vice president or higher.
- To break into your chosen field: In certain fields, a master's degree is the minimum required credential. Aspiring occupational therapists, mathematicians, economists and mental health counselors are just some of the professionals who need graduate degrees to enter the field; a bachelor's degree is not sufficient. If you're not sure how much education you need to enter your desired profession, here's a detailed chart which may help.
- To pursue a passion: The majority of potential students will likely fall into the four previous categories, but there will be some students who attend graduate school because they love learning and wish to immerse themselves in a discipline. While undergraduate degrees require students to study a variety of subjects, graduate programs tend to be more focused on a specific area that allows learners to delve in more deeply. Choosing a degree program over a more informal course of study provides a structured approach to learning and additional resources that you wouldn't have access to if you chose to learn independently.
Your own reasons to go to grad school will be very specific to your own career goals, life circumstances, and financial resources. But the above list might help you refine your thoughts about how obtaining an advanced degree can benefit you.
Interested in learning more about graduate programs? Explore master's degree programs at AIU.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment," on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm. Based on median weekly earnings. These are national projections covering all levels of experience; conditions in your area may be different. Retrieved 10/5/15.