Do You Need A Graduate Degree? - Questions to Consider

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  • 0:01 Grduate Degrees
  • 1:15 Questions to Ask
  • 4:19 Choices to Make
  • 6:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Graduate school can be a great opportunity for some people, but it's not for everyone. In this lesson, we'll examine the costs and benefits of graduate school, how to figure out if grad school is right for you, and decisions to be made about attending it.

Graduate Degrees

Jenny isn't sure what to do. She's going to be a senior in college next year, and she thinks she might want to go to graduate school. But she's not sure it's a good idea.

A graduate degree is a degree beyond a bachelor's degree. This can be a master's degree, which usually takes about two years to complete, or it could be a doctorate or professional degree, which can take ten years or more to complete. Some careers require a graduate degree. Most college professors need a doctorate, and lawyers and doctors need a professional degree.

But advanced degrees cost a lot in both time and money. A professional degree, like a law degree, or a doctorate, like the PhD that many college professors have, can take ten years to complete and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even a master's degree can take two years beyond college and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

So, is a graduate degree worth it? Should Jenny go for it or plan on getting a job and skipping graduate school? To answer those questions, let's take a closer look at Jenny's situation, including the questions she should ask herself and the choices she needs to make.

Questions to Ask

Jenny is a psychology major, and she thinks that she wants to go to graduate school. But is it the best choice for her? The first thing that Jenny will want to do is to ask herself some important questions about grad school. These include:

1. Do I have a clear career path that I am following? Or, am I just looking for something to do?

Certainly, there are some careers that require a grad degree. As we saw, doctors, lawyers, and college professors all need higher degrees. And within the field of psychology, Jenny will need a master's or doctorate to see patients, and if she wants to teach psychology courses in college, she'll need an advanced degree, too.

But there are many things that Jenny could do without a graduate degree. She could use her psychology degree to work in research or advertising or human resources, just to name a few. If she's not sure what she wants to do, she's better off getting a job after college instead of going to grad school. But if she knows that she wants to be a psychologist who sees patients or teaches at a college level, then she will want to go to grad school.

2. Is this degree required for my career path?

As we said before, Jenny will need a graduate degree to see patients. But she might not need a doctorate. With a master's degree, which requires less time and money, she can become a counselor.

Not all career paths require graduate degrees. If Jenny decides she wants to work in research, for example, she could get a master's or doctoral degree, but it's not required. In that case, she's probably better off working in research, at least first. Later, if she finds that she needs it, she can go back to school. But many times, people find that they don't actually need a graduate degree to be successful in their career.

3. Have I explored the jobs in my career path?

Jenny has decided that she wants to be a counselor or a clinical psychologist. But she's not quite sure what those jobs entail. She has a vision in her head of what she thinks it's like, but she doesn't really know the details. She's not sure what kind of salary she can expect, what a typical day is like, or even if there are many jobs available in the field of counseling and psychology.

Before deciding to go down a career path that requires a graduate degree, it's best to explore jobs within that career. Talking to someone who is in that career and doing some online research will go a long way towards helping Jenny get a more accurate view of her dream career, and whether or not it's actually what she wants to do.

4. Is there another way to advance my career?

Maybe instead of becoming a counselor, which requires a master's degree, Jenny will decide to be a mediator, which in most states, requires her only to go through training, like a workshop.

There are many ways to advance in a career. Thinking about options other than graduate school allows Jenny, and people like her, to find new and creative ways to get ahead without having to invest time and money on graduate school.

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