What’s Wrong with Grad School?

Perhaps you are considering attending grad school, but you are afraid advanced education programs lack what is needed to get you to the next level in your career. Many turn to education during tough economic times to improve their chances of gaining employment. While a graduate degree can prepare you for an advanced career, taking this route to avoid the economic crisis has its downfalls.

Consider the following concerns before choosing to attend grad school.

1. Don’t enroll to delay adulthood

Many students who are not ready for the workforce or have been victims of unemployment turn to a graduate degree to ride out the economic storm.

Choosing to attend grad school to prolong your job search or repayment of school debt is not a good idea. While you may buy a few years before you need to make payments, grad school is not free, so you will just be adding more debt.

Choose to enroll in grad school only if you need it to land your desired career.

2. Consider real-life experience

Oftentimes, students choose to attend graduate school because they feel it will help them find a job after graduation. While this may be true for some fields, it is not always the case. Even when a graduate degree is necessary, many jobs also require experience.

If you look at job listings for a variety of positions, you will notice that many require so many years of relevant work experience. Some employers find that candidates who have real-world knowledge are better suited for the job than those who have obtained years of education but don’t have the people skills necessary to quickly adapt to a professional environment.

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While graduate school will make you knowledgeable in your field of study, everyday skills are generally not part of the curriculum.

If you do pursue graduate school, aggressively seek internship opportunities that give you exposure to the professional environment you’ll be working in after graduation.

3. Conduct a cost-benefit analysis

While it is true that many students choose to attend graduate school to earn higher paying jobs, your earning potential is mostly determined by your field of expertise.

What’s more, just because you choose to pursue a PhD does not mean that you will make much more than someone with an undergraduate or master’s degree.

While you can expect to earn about 23 percent more with a master’s degree than with a bachelor’s, earning a PhD only increases that number by three percent. Pursuing a PhD just for more earning potential is not a good idea in many fields, especially since it takes about twice as long to earn a PhD than a master’s degree.

4. Remember grad students are cheap labor

Grad students devote a significant amount of time conducting research or even assisting professors as instructor aids.

While this provides valuable experience, think of yourself as doing free work for your college or university. Instead of hiring assistants to help professors prep for class or grade papers, schools recruit students for this work.

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Additionally, instead of paying professionals to conduct research experiments, schools use students to participate in lab projects used for school research. While these experiences give you some hands-on experience and broaden your knowledge, your school benefits greatly from your free labor.

Explore Suggestions for Improvement

Despite some of the pitfalls of grad school, there is hope for improvement of grad school programs. Explore the following ideas for improving the graduate school experience of traditional and online students. Some of these measures have already begun to be implemented, but further development is needed for grad schools to reach their potential.

1. Expand information technology in grad school

Gone are the days of pen and paper, and in are the days of computers and the Internet. Information technology is a huge advantage in today’s grad school programs. It offers easy communication between professors and students, and has allowed for the booming trend of online classes.

Schools that embrace technology without compromising quality will make grad school better for all students. Online grad school programs allow for self-paced learning where students can focus on their studies rather than spending all their extra time participating in research studies to earn a better grade in the class.

Contact your choice school to learn about distance learning opportunities and how they use information technology in their programs.

2. Improve graduate degree completion rates

According to a report by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), a little more than half of graduate students pursuing a PhD take about ten years to complete their studies, This prolonged graduation time can be due to many factors, such as a student’s interfering personal life or work commitments.

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However, schools share at least part of the blame. Graduate schools should develop advising, mentoring, and support groups for graduate students in effort to increase the graduation rate and productivity of their students.

If you are concerned about the support you will receive during your graduate studies, ask your preferred schools about specific support systems that help their students graduate on time.

Find out what type of student advising services they provide, and see if they offer mentorship programs.

3. Embrace transparency in employment data

Many schools have begun to offer online courses, but some of the online programs are offered by for-profit schools. Although for-profit schools have led the way in developing fully online programs, the incentive for these schools is to graduate as many students as possible, regardless of the job outlook for certain fields.

Graduate schools have the responsibility to communicate accurate post-graduation employment data so that prospective students can invest their time and money wisely.

There should be incentive to increase not only graduation rates, but also job placement rates, in order to ensure that graduate schools are looking out for the best interest of their students.