Originally Posted: Jun 20, 2011
Last Updated: Aug 19, 2011
So you have made it through four years of college and have earned your degree. Now what?
While it may be difficult to consider more schooling, consider making graduate school your next step, particularly if you want to land a job that requires more than a four-year degree, or you want a higher starting salary. Just be prepared that your graduate education will differ greatly from your undergraduate one.
Undergrad vs. grad
Unlike your undergrad degree, there are no general studies requirements in graduate school. There are no electives. Your field of study is narrower and delves deeper, forcing a mastery of your chosen field, and you will spend the length of your schooling on your specific subject. This is because your goal in grad school will be to gain the specialized training necessary for the career toward which you are working.
You will also find that your relationship with your professors will be much different. In graduate school, professors often show a peer-like respect for their students. They know their students have made a big life decision and commitment by attending grad school, and they rarely view them as pupils, instead seeing them as equals who share a similar interest. They know that their students are serious and focused, and they expect a higher level of work because of it.
In graduate school, you will take fewer tests than in undergraduate studies. Instead, grad school requires more writing and research, as well as the ability to work independently. Graduate professors do not hold your hand, but rather present you with concepts and ideas to encourage individual direction. Courses will typically involve more discussion than lectures, and you will discover that the friendships and connections you make in graduate school are deeper than your previous education experiences.
Immerse yourself in what you are passionate about
It is likely that, when you were an undergraduate, you really did not know specifically what you wanted to do for a career. As a graduate student, you will develop clearer goals and possess greater motivation as well as a commitment to doing more intensive work in a field that you love. During your undergraduate studies, you [hopefully] found a subject that truly piqued your interest, and graduate work gives you the opportunity to further develop your skills in that area.
Graduate work also affords the opportunity to obtain hands-on experience to help you apply your knowledge to the real world. You will be surrounded by professors and other students who are as passionate about your field of study as you are. This makes studying a more enriching and collaborative effort, and promotes a sense of belonging for all involved.
Gain an advantage over others in your career
It's no secret that a graduate degree is more prestigious than an undergraduate degree, and this fact is not lost on companies and institutions when they seek new employees. Graduate studies can ensure enhanced qualifications for a career, which typically result in better, higher-level jobs.
A graduate degree is a great achievement that increases job satisfaction and self-confidence. Graduate students have more networking opportunities, and receive knowledge and training that would take years or cannot be learned on the job. They also have a superior work/life balance, as many grad students must work and study at the same time.
More education equals more money
Those with master's or doctoral degrees are poised to earn significantly higher salaries than those with a bachelor's degree. Holders of a graduate degree end up being better compensated for their education than if they had stopped at the undergrad level. If you have a graduate degree, you are likely to start your career at a higher level and continue to advance your career at a faster rate than if you earned only a bachelor's degree in your field.
The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) , located in Virginia, recently found that recruiters are looking for employees with "soft skills," such as leadership and communication. Recruiters are finding these skills in the prospective employees who have earned graduate degrees.
The GMAC conducted its Global M.B.A. Survey 2006 Comprehensive Report , which underscores the fact that people with advanced degrees earn a higher salary than people with just an undergrad degree. The report states that two-thirds of MBA students receive job offers that include a significant signing bonus.
In addition, the report found that, when it comes to MBAs in business-related fields, starting salaries can be more than $92,000 per year, nearly double the earnings of people with undergraduate degrees. Additionally, 52% of students working toward their M.B.A.s receive and/or accept job offers before they even graduate.
What are you waiting for?
The benefits of an advanced degree are numerous, and so are the reasons for earning one. Many people return to school after working for a few years in order to advance in their current career, and many others are returning to change their career, as their interests and skills have evolved.
Additionally, if your dream is to become a social worker, college professor, lawyer, doctor, psychologist, therapist, etc., you will find that state licensing requirements make a graduate education necessary. If you want to manage others or start your own business, a graduate degree can earn you the extra credibility you need for success.
Whether you enjoy academia and are not ready for the often difficult job market, want to contribute more to society or simply need more schooling for your chosen profession, graduate school is the next logical step towards a career. Education is never a waste of time, and it can open an immeasurable number of doors for you to enter.