Is Graduate School worth it these days?

I was having a discussion with a friend during my lunch break today about graduate school. She’s in the midst of applying to potential graduate schools for the 2011 fall term. I graduated with an undergrad degree 1.5 years ago and while I’ve entertained the idea of going back to graduate school I haven’t really taken the time to sit down and REALLY identify if I should or should not go. Anyway I found myself asking her why she was considering graduate school at this point. She’s racked with student loans, and has an under-grad degree in accounting. She actually has a job at a small financial firm in a suburb of Chicago and she is doing relatively decent(for an entry-level accountant) so I was baffled as to why she was planning on going back to school after just graduating in December of 2009.  Her response, “I want more money. I hate this job. And the only way I can score a better job and make more money is if I get my MBA”

I then pointed out to her that the average difference between an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree is a mere $8000 to $10,000 in income and that this does not take into account the cost of loans she’ll carry and have to pay off upon graduating from graduate school especially since a lot of the schools she’s applied to are pricey and won’t offer her very much financial assistance.

She didn’t agree, even though we both have read research and evidence that suggests that I’m right. Anyway she kept saying “That’s just the average. My dad has his MBA and told me that upon getting his MBA he made twice as much than what he had made with just a bachelors!”

I didn’t disagree with her, that is my dad’s experience as well.

Though I did point out to her that our dads are a part of the Baby Boomer Generation which were generally one of the highest paid generations EVER. Whereas my generation is said to be underpaid, overworked, and overqualified, and at a loss–with the number of jobs being outsourced and with the pool of people going to school for the same fields and/or careers.

When I got off the phone with her I started to think about this “issue” a bit further. I have a lot of friends in graduate school or headed to graduate school. A few need graduate school for their careers: Lawyers, Professors, Doctors, Dentists, and/or Social workers/psychologists. So it’s completely understandable in THOSE cases why graduate school is necessary and “worth it”. Those careers also pay a ton and so the ROI(return on investment) is worth it. But for careers where graduate school isn’t necessarily needed, but is often used to propel the career, I wonder if graduate school is truly needed.

It was worth it when my parents were in school. But back then, the cost of education wasn’t as expensive, there weren’t as many people going to college, there weren’t as many people majoring in similar fields, and there wasn’t as much competitiveness, selectivity among employers and outsourcing going on. Additionally the economy wasn’t in shambles like it is now. There are many people with several professional degrees having difficulties finding jobs in this economy. And there are many people without professional degrees–those that have simply moved up with a company–that make just as much and have just as much responsibility as those with professional degrees. But for some fields it is obviously arguable that a graduate degree is both beneficial and lucrative. In the general sense, however, is graduate school worth it, especially considering the variety of unfortunate circumstances for today’s generation?


One thought on “Is Graduate School worth it these days?

  1. I am currently enrolled in Graduate School and I often wonder whether I made a good decision or not. My biggest concern with the degree itself is the high number of like-minded individuals who are also enrolling in graduate school. As enrollment numbers increase, largely as a result of the down economy, “degree inflation” may become a problem, putting us in a similar position post-graduation. Your friend’s problem of hating her job and wanting more money is a justification given by many of my fellow classmates but unfortunately, its not always the answer and it’s often proven to be a means of putting off the inevitable.

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