There are some common questions you hear as you go through the game of life. After high school: “What college are you attending?” After marriage: “When are you having kids?” And after college: “Are you thinking about Graduate School?” Whenever I came across that last question, I normally answered with a groan, or a long, drawn-out sigh. Doesn’t my family realize that is the last thing I want to be thinking about right now? MORE SCHOOL? My entire life for the past 20 years was school, and I needed a break!
So I took a break. I’ve been working full-time ever since graduating in spring 2013. What I haven’t been able to find, though, is a steady and stable job outside of retail. What was the problem? I had the college education and the drive to learn new things. Where were all the jobs promised to me by my parents?
“Get a college education so you’re not flipping burgers when you’re 30!”
Well, alright – not that there is anything wrong with being a burger-flipper – but that commonly heard phrase from my parents has proven to be false. In fact, people in their twenties are suffering the worst from underemployment, even with a college degree.
So what is the solution?
My reluctant answer: MORE SCHOOL!
No, really, continuing my education with a Masters is sounding more appealing every day I work for my just-above-minimum-wage job. Here’s some of my reasoning behind it, and you can see if it will work for you too.
The job market is flooded.
The job market is flooded with underemployed college graduates. This is the primary reason why millennials are having such a hard time with employment. Workers over the age of 55 are staying at their jobs longer, and more college graduates are entering the workforce with 2 or 4 year degrees. College was once very prestigious, but has now become almost commonplace. Some are calling for more education in apprenticeship, since that line of work is always in demand. While others are claiming that is a poor choice to make: sometimes literally.
Graduate school is a fine way to get an upper hand on the rest of the college-educated population. It can help you better define your career path, or even give you access to people who are currently working in that field through internships. Remember: networking is key!
Better pay to pay off those loans.
If you started panicking when reading the word “loans,” just take a minute and breathe. BREATHE. Better now? Cool.
We are all aware that student loan debt is exponentially the worst it has ever been in the history of accredited universities in the United States; exceeding $1 trillion dollars and growing. It’s gotten so bad that politicians are actually starting to pay attention to it. Once politics gets involved, you know it’s a real issue.
So how is grad school beneficial for your wallet? Well, by jumping into graduate school you get a couple benefits with your loans. You get to defer them for a little longer, for one. Sure you’re still accruing interest and debt, but you also have a higher chance of getting a job that will help you pay them off. Plus, if you get into one of the schools that doesn’t charge you to further your education… well then you’re one of the ultra lucky ones!
If you do plan on getting student loans for grad school, make sure you freshen up on the important differences between undergraduate and graduate loans. It’s also wise to plan ahead, so you can save up some money before you attend grad school, thus reducing the amount of money you need to borrow.
You get a cool title.
Okay, so this one might be a little vain, but adding a title to my name just makes me feel way more AdultTM than ever before. Plus, when you add that to your resume potential employers will see that you’re dedicated to your field. In that way, it’s both good and bad that people take you more seriously when you have that M.A. or M.S. behind your name.
Just look at the popular following of former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson (Phd). Political leanings aside, the guy wasn’t exceptional at much outside of brain surgery. He denied studies that were based in scientific evidence, held outlandish beliefs about the Egyptian pyramids, and his followers were still falling back on his apparent “high level of intelligence.” For the record, you can be book smart and still be a bit dense on real life issues: it’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Which brings me to the last point…
You already have the life experience, now have the degree to back it up.
It wasn’t until after I had graduated college that I realized just how much I was missing in my education and worldview. I felt that much of my maturing and life knowledge didn’t accumulate until after I had left college: more time working, more interacting with people outside academia, and less time holing up in a book in the quietest corner of the library.
With the amount of book knowledge I had, I was surprised to find how little of it I needed in the workplace or when having a conversation with someone. How I would love to go back and rewrite my analysis of the comedy film le Placard in my capstone French class now that I’ve been more heavily involved in social justice. As the saying goes: Live and Learn!
I’m not the only one who has experienced this phenomenon, either. It’s now very common, and recommended, to take a “gap year” before attending college. At the time I was attending, it wasn’t possible for me to have a gap year (it was pre-Health Care Reform and I have a chronic illness), but now after being out of school for a few years I can see just how beneficial it is. Which means this might be the perfect time to go back to grad school. It might not be easier, but definitely more fulfilling than before.
Now take this info and fly with it.
If you’re still on the fence, you can always get advice from a former grad student. However if you’re sold and all of these things have convinced you to continue your education, then do your research in choosing the right school to get your Masters or Doctorate or whatever it is your heart desires.
As for me, I’m thinking of pursuing it online. I don’t have to move my little animal family out of state, the prices aren’t too bad, and it’s considerably more flexible around my work schedule. Hopefully by the time I get through another 2 years of school the economy will be friendlier and student debt will be completely forgiven!
Ah, a girl can dream, right?
My employer currently reimburses my grad school which I take classes online at night. It’s a great option for me because I get the degree AND the experience with minimal out of pocket payment. I also just paid off $53k of debt since I was still working. I think that’s a great option for recent graduates to consider.
Yes! I love that companies are doing that now. I think Starbucks and ASU were some of the first to start the tuition reimbursement option for their employees, but a lot of other businesses are jumping on board. Really makes you appreciate were you work when they want to invest in your personal growth and education!