Perhaps you saw that headline and thought to yourself, “Graduate school? Are you crazy? I haven’t even wrapped my mind around college yet.”
That’s fine. If you’re headed off to campus in the fall, and you don’t really know what you want to do, there’s no reason to stress about grad school at this point. You can figure that out later. (You might also want to read my recent column on choosing a major.)
But if you already know what you want to do, and it’s going to require some post-graduate education, then perhaps you should give the matter some thought, even at this early stage.
Obviously, some jobs you just can’t do without a graduate degree, like doctor, lawyer, college professor, psychologist and scientist. If you’re eying any of those professions, plan on spending at least three more years in school beyond the bachelor’s.
These days, even accountants need master’s degrees, especially if they want to work for one of the Big Four firms, who will no longer hire anyone without a MAC. That fairly new requirement illustrates a general, culture-wide tendency toward degree inflation.
So many people have bachelor’s degrees, it’s starting to feel like you need a master’s to set yourself apart. Meanwhile, master’s degrees have become common enough that more and more people are pursuing doctorates — to the point where universities are inventing new programs to accommodate them.
Clearly, master’s degrees can be career enhancers in fields like business and education: You can probably rise higher and make more money in those fields with a master’s than without. You just have to calculate the investment, in both time and money, and decide if it’s worth it.
Also, here’s a pro tip for future teachers: You’re probably better off starting your career with a bachelor’s degree, as many school systems don’t like to hire at the master’s level because they have to pay more. Once you’re hired, though, you can go on and get the master’s (or beyond), and most systems will pay you for it.
Also, if you want to go into K-12 administration, you will need at least a master’s and probably an education specialist degree, if not a doctorate.
Then there are those professions, like IT and engineering, where people generally don’t need a graduate degree to be successful. Some firms even discourage people from taking that route, preferring they spend their time on short courses devoted to specific job-related skills.
One more point about graduate school: If your job requires an advanced degree, where you get that degree is ultimately far more important than where you get your undergraduate degree.
If you can’t afford (or get into) your dream school right now, just study hard, make good grades and try again in four years. No one will care that your bachelor’s degree is from, say, Kennesaw State if your master’s is from Vanderbilt.