Can’t find a job? Why not just go to grad school?

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gradschooltshirt (1)“The economy is bad, I guess I’ll go to graduate school.” 

Have you said this or heard someone say this recently?  I’ll bet you have.

I have heard this statement countless times from students facing the completion of their undergraduate degrees.

They don’t know what they want to do when they graduate, they hear news reports about high unemployment rates, and they figure that a graduate degree will allow them to wait out the recession, buy them more time to make up their minds and make them more marketable.

Ready for the cold, hard slap of reality:

A graduate degree  by itself – will not make you more employable. 

It will not –  by definition – allow you to demand greater compensation than candidates who only have undergraduate degrees. It will not guarantee you a job or necessarily make finding a job easier.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of graduate education.  I have a graduate degree, and I really enjoy working with graduate students. But, if you are considering graduate school, do so as a consumer.  Make an informed decision about what you want to study (and why), where you should go, and what you are going to do when you finish.

Considering graduate school?  Ask yourself the following questions and see if you like your answers:

Why do I want to go to graduate school?
What field do I plan to study?
What degree will I pursue?

Why this field and why this degree?
Where are the best graduate programs in this field?
How much money and time am I going to have to invest to get this degree?
What is the demand for professionals in this field with this degree?
How competitive is the job market in this field?

Where do professionals with this degree find employment?
What I can reasonably expect to earn?

And finally, after you have considered all of the questions above:

Given what I know now about degree programs and employment prospects, am I ready and willing to commit the next 2-5 years  to a graduate degree program?

Graduate school can be a great career step, but it is not a step you should take blindfolded or wearing rose-colored glasses.

If you are considering graduate school, you owe it to yourself to factor into your decision-making what you are going to do when you finish.

Otherwise, you stand a good chance of ending up over-educated, under-employed (in your opinion, at least), and regretting the original decision you made.


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