The Campus Career Coach

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What are you going to do with that graduate degree?


A couple of years ago, the Chronicle of Higher Education featured a very interesting and insightful article, the content of which still holds true today:

Master’s in English:  Will Mow Lawns
Most programs don’t say where graduates get jobs, and future Ph.D.’s don’t demand the data

It is well worth the read if you are considering going to graduate school.

“The economy is bad, I guess I’ll go to graduate school.” 

Have you said this or heard someone say this?  I’ll bet you have.

I have heard this statement countless times from students staring down the completion of their Bachelors’ degrees.  They don’t know what they want to do when they graduate and figure that a graduate degree will buy them more time to make up their minds and make them more marketable.

Here is the cold slap of reality: A graduate degree – in and of itself – will not make you more employable.  It will not  – by definition – allow you to demand greater compensation than candidates who only have undergraduate degrees.  It will not guarantee you a job.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of graduate education.  I have a graduate degree myself. But, if you are considering graduate school, do so as a consumer.  Make an informed decision about what you want to study (and why), where you should go, and what you are going to do when you finish.

Considering graduate school?  Ask yourself the following questions and see if you like your answers:

Why do I want to go to graduate school?
What field do I plan to study?
What degree will I pursue?

Why this field and why this degree?
Where are the best graduate programs in this field?
How much money and time am I going to have to invest to get this degree?
What is the demand for professionals in this field with this degree?
How competitive is the job market in this field?

Where do professionals with this degree find employment?
What I can reasonably expect to earn?

And finally, after you have considered all of the questions above:
Given what I know now about degree programs and employment prospects, and I ready and willing to commit the next 2-5 years  to a graduate degree program?

Graduate school can be a great career step, but it is not a step you should take blindfolded or wearing rose-colored glasses.  If you are considering graduate school, you owe it to yourself to factor into your decision-making what you are going to do when you finish.

Otherwise, you stand a good chance of ending up over-educated, under-employed (in your opinion, at least), and regretting the original decision you made.




  1. […] course – the quick answer is not always the best or most complete answer. Check out my post “What you going to do with that graduate degree?” for the long answer […]

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