RU GSE Student Blog

A Student Perspective

Grad School: Is it Worth it?

Thomas Jefferson once said:

“Knowledge indeed is a desirable, a lovely possession.”

I quote “TJ” because I went to the University of Virginia, and that’s just what we do…

But, on a more serious note, education is an extremely valuable tool. The knowledge that we gain from our education is truly a possession that can never be taken away.

Despite the intellectual value of an education, the rising cost of education and considerable time commitment associated with graduate school both at the master’s and doctoral levels may leave you and your friends questioning whether or not the investment will all be worth it. As grad students, it’s sometimes easy to get so bogged down in the papers, internships, teaching assistantships, and exams that it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

This is SUCH a hot topic that there’s even a handy calculator tool out there that will help you quantify the extent to which your monetary investment in grad school will be worth it. Click the calculator picture to check it out!

While it’s relatively easy to weigh your student loans, tuition, and rent costs against your projected salary, I don’t think the value of an education can be determined solely by numbers.

Q: So, why does grad school sometimes get a bad rep?

A: Probably because the Simpsons said so…

There’s no denying that grad students generally don’t make lots of money. My paycheck is exhibit A. Leaving the financial aspect of grad school aside, is it really so bad?

While I’m not thrilled when I have to write a 20-page paper or work on yet another group project,  I think that there are plenty of positive features of grad school.

Here they are:
1) Being a College Student  …again: Maybe it’s just me, but I LOVE the college campus environment. There’s just something lively and inspiring about it. While my life is NOTHING like it was when I was an undergrad, I still enjoy being a student. I enjoy the feeling of accomplished after completing a huge assignment and doing well. I love the hustle and bustle in between classes. If you think I’m a nerd, so be it! (:

2)  Student Discounts: While I’m a little bit bitter that grad students don’t get free football tickets, I do enjoy beholding the power of a student ID at the cashier. Lots of places like museums, restaurants, and even some clothing stores offer the beloved student discount. Let’s milk it while we still can! Check out this comprehensive list of establishments that offer THE discount

3) Increase Job Prospects: Let’s get practical now. Having a graduate degree is necessary for some professional fields. And, if it’s not required, it’s definitely preferred. Having that extra degree can help set you apart from other candidates.

4) Time to Figure Things Out: Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely don’t advocate going to graduate school because you don’t know what else to do with your life. Regardless, grad school can help you clarify your career goals and set you more directly on your journey. You may realize that your initial career goal is no longer viable for you, and that’s a valuable discovery that grad school can help you unearth. 

5) Like Minds: Whether your program follows a cohort model or not, grad school gives you the opportunity to rub shoulders with people that have similar interests as you. Plus, you’re all relatively in the same place. Once you’re out in the professional world, you may not have that experience. You may be the youngest in your company, or the only one with your particular graduate degree. Grad school is a unique time where you’re surrounded by like minds. Cherish it…

6) Learning is Fun: Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with intellectual curiosity. I promise, it’s okay to enjoy school. It’s also okay to like learning for the sake of learning.

As I finish up my second and last year of grad school, you may be wondering—Is she going to pursue a Ph.D.?

Well, I don’t know yet. I know it’s not going to be my first step after grad school, but it’s still an option. Before I make that call, I need to get my feet wet in a real, full-time job and do a little soul-searching.

Whether you’re in a master’s program, considering one, or already knee deep in your doctoral work, education is about the journey.

So, be sure to enjoy the ride…

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