Grad School During a Recession: Yes or No?

Dec 05, 2011

To enroll or not to enroll, that is the question. And the answer is: it really all depends. Find out when attending grad school during a recession is a good idea and when it isn't.

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Don't Let the Recession Get You Down

If you want to be a doctor, work in academia or otherwise need a master's or doctoral degree for your desired career field, don't let the recession keep you from grad school. However, if you're considering grad school as a way to ride out the recession, it may not be a wise decision.

When a Master's is Worth It

Grad school requires time off work, consumes a great deal of time and can cost tens of thousands of dollars. If you can afford it, or if you receive a full scholarship, then by all means go for it. However, if you need to take out student loans to pay for it, you should only do so if you are clear about your professional path and a master's or doctoral degree is required. For example, if you know that you want to be a psychologist, which requires at least a master's degree before you can begin practicing, then going to grad school makes sense. Also, if your previous field has become obsolete over time and you are interested in moving into a new, up-and-coming field that requires graduate study, there may be no time like the present.

When Work is a Better Option

If you don't know what career you are going to pursue, or if your chosen field doesn't require a graduate degree, putting off grad school to acquire some real-world work experience can be quite valuable. Work experience is important to potential employers. Whether gained through a paid job, an unpaid internship or volunteering, it can offer essential work-related skills, provide networking opportunities and help you prepare for advanced career opportunities.

Work experience can also be helpful if you later choose to earn a graduate degree. Graduate degree holders with little or no work experience may be seen by employers as over-qualified for entry-level positions, but too inexperienced for advanced positions. The experience you gain before going to graduate school could make you stand out in a sea of graduates with no experience.

Don't Forget Opportunity Costs

Holding a master's or doctoral degree can increase your income potential throughout your lifetime. However, you should still consider the opportunity costs, such as the short-term cost of money lost by taking yourself out of the workforce and the large debt you may rack up to cover living expenses and tuition. It's a good idea to do some research on what a graduate degree program will actually cost you versus the fiscal benefits it can offer in the future. And no matter what, remember that a graduate degree guarantees education; it does not guarantee employment.

Learn how a 5-year combined degree program can help you save time and money while earning your master's.

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