Reasons Not to Attend Graduate School
Adapted from petersons.com/graduate-schools/
Now for the flipside. Completing a graduate degree has many rewards, as indicated above. However, there are also many reasons not to go.
- Highly competitive: Graduate programs always have fewer spots than undergraduate programs. There's competition for seats, research positions, grant money, and often as a result, departmental politics.
- Enables the “professional student” mindset: Some students just don't want to leave school. One of the reasons for this is said to be a fear of going out into the workforce.
- Requires ability to set priorities: Successfully completing a grad degree requires a great deal of discipline and priority setting. This can be a strain on family and personal relationships, not to mention yourself.
- Relationship strains: If you're married, housing might be an issue. You might be offered a grad/research assistant position and free tuition but no accommodations for your spouse in campus housing.
- Stressful: Emotionally exhausting. Completing a graduate degree, especially a Ph.D., requires emotional maturity.
- Writing a thesis: Some grad programs require writing a thesis on a topic that your degree supervisor picks out for you. Writing an original thesis is not easy compared to course work, and it is often the reason grad students take a lot longer than program duration. Each semester you delay might mean a "penalty" fee in the form of extra tuition that has to be paid.
- Requires support: You might need a strong support network to get through emotionally.
- Might take 2–7 years of your life: Not everyone finds they can complete a grad degree in the typical 1 or 2 years. Personal obligations often intrude or lack of finances makes it difficult. Or your supervisor doesn't like your research. This doesn't even factor in the costs and how long it might take to pay back loans.
- Extra cost of education: Graduate schools can be very expensive. If you are not going to work during your studies or will not receive an assistant job and waived tuition fees, the cost of your education is going to mount.
- Graduating with a large debt: This state of financial affairs might push you into accepting any job after graduation out of necessity.
- No guarantee of higher salary: Getting a grad degree does not necessarily mean you'll get offered a job with a much higher salary than you are getting now.
- Return on investment might be slow: Even with a higher salary, how quickly will that offset tuition loans and the negative cash flow due to not earning while studying?
- Limited job opportunities: If the degree you get is in an academic field, finding work outside of teaching or research may be difficult, and thus, not necessarily worth it to you.
- Undesirable job locales: Teaching positions offered after graduation could be in areas you simply don't want to live in.
- Too qualified: During an economic downturn, should you find yourself looking for employment, having an advanced degree can be a liability. You might hear, “Sorry, you're overqualified.”
If you are determined to go to graduate school, consider spending a few years getting relevant work experience first. You could take the time to save the money for tuition and expenses, which would allow you to devote dedicated time to a degree. Or if you've built up trust in your employer, they might foot part of the tuition and give you time off each day to attend to studies. All this allows you some peace of mind, which might be what you need to succeed in grad school.