Should I Go to Grad School?
The following is the 2nd half of, “Should I Go to Grad School?”. The 1st half is posted at www.financesuperhero.com/go-grad-school! Check it out!
Resources Put Out
- Average Salary – How much money you can expect to make after you graduate is obviously going to have a huge impact on your decision. After all, if you’re going to get an MBA just to become a manager at a McDonald’s, then you’ve got some serious rethinking to do, sparky. After all, if the income doesn’t justify the expenses, then matriculating to a university makes as much sense as a toothbrush made of razor blades.
- Prospect of moving forward in your field – You might really enjoy reading. Like REALLY enjoy it. Like “put-hermione-granger-to-shame” enjoy it. And if that’s the case, awesome. Does that mean you should go get your masters in Library Science? Um, no. Even if it didn’t have one of the lowest starting salaries for graduate degrees in the universe, what do you expect? That you’ll become some sort of “super-librarian” and move up to being an expert in putting books on a shelf. Come on, now… Remember, a key to answering, “Should I go to grad school” is figuring out, “Will this allow me to progress in my career?”
- Employability – Having a huge starting salary and great growth prospects might seem like the bee’s knees when it comes to graduate degrees. But you also need to figure out how soon after you graduate you should expect to be employed. After all, if it takes you a year to find a job with yo’ fancay new degree, a couple of things will happen. First, your parents will more than likely grow to hate you as you leech housing and food from them. Second, your student loans will become due, and you’ll have to find a way to pay them with no income. Three, you WILL be bored to tears, in which case you will be frightfully unhappy, gain a ton of weight, and sink into a black hole of depression that sucks you in like a Hoover on crack.
Just make sure you’ll be employed within 3 months of graduating, OK? You’ll thank me later.
Soft Factors to consider when asking, “Should I go to grad school?”
Again, I’m going to work under the assumption that you’re not a robot. If you are, make yourself useful and start mining bitcoin for me. If you’re not, then we need to talk about the “emotional” factors that come into you deciding about grad school.
- Happiness – Whatever job this degree sets you up for, will you be happy doing it? Know that I didn’t ask, “Do you THINK you’ll be happy doing this?” That’s WAY too easy of a question to answer yes to. If you’re seriously thinking about dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars on a degree, then you need to be 100% sure that it’s what you want to do.
“But Paul, how will I know”. The easiest way is to do a SHIT TON of informational interviews. Want to go to law school? Talk to a bunch of lawyers and see how they’re doing. See if your personality matches theirs. See if you have the same reasons for going to law school as they did. Most importantly, ASK THEM IF THEY’RE HAPPY? People, while wonderfully diverse, really aren’t ALL that different. Chances are if you’ve met 10 lawyers and they all ask you to push them in front of a truck, that you’re not going to love being a lawyer either.
- Fulfillment – This is slightly different from happiness. You can have fulfillment while not being happy. As an example, I used to be a teacher in south Texas. Was it a fulfilling job? Absolutely. I got to walk in every day and fill little heads with knowledge, which was pretty fucking cool. But was I happy? God, no. While I could write a book on all the issues with the American educational system, it’ll suffice to say that there were many organizational problems that outweighed my fulfillment, and thus I wasn’t able to continue. So make sure that your job is not only fulfilling, but also allows for some amount of happiness.
- Lifestyle – Let’s call it out for what it is: when you say you’re an investment banker, or corporate lawyer, or consultant, or marketing executive, or a doctor some things come to mind. Travel (sometimes). Drinking (lots of times). Expensive client dinners. Fast pace. Does the graduate degree you’re looking into offer you a chance to shape your lifestyle the way you want? Do you want to work in the West’s version of a sweathouse, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars while working hundreds of hours per month? Or do you want to work somewhere where the expectation is that you work no more than 40 hours a week, have an awesome social circle at work, and attend Taco Tuesdays religiously? Then be SURE that your degree is setting you up for that life!
- Prestige – Do you want to attend a school that makes people go, “oooooh” and “aahhhhhh”? Then you need to get the test scores/work experience/ recommendations to prove that you belong there. Could you not care less about the name brand of your school? Then good, you’ll end up paying a lot less for your degree. Either way, be sure that you won’t be left with buyer’s remorse when you’re done with your graduate education. It sucks to have gone to a school that no one has heard of (believe me, I know…)
Wonderful? How does this help me answer, “Should I go to Grad school?”
Well, I’m going to take you through a little case study:
Here’s Judy. Everyone say, “Hi, Judy.”
Judy wants to go do an MBA, but isn’t sure if it’s the right time for her to go. She Googles, “Should I go to grad school”, which then leads her to this article. So she goes through the framework, like a boss…
- Time – An MBA lasts two years, and Judy is 26. That means giving up $100,000 in salary, and two years of her youth. However, Judy has always seen herself as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and knows that an MBA is almost a prerequisite for achieving that goal. She’s ok with the loss of 2 years in order to get the degree.
- Tuition – Judy has some money socked away, and has a friend who works in a financial aid office at her big state school. She’s sure that those two factors combined with loans will allow her to pay the tuition.
- Living Expenses – All the MBA schools Judy is looking at are in big cities, which means rent/food/transportation will be a big chunk of change. She’s not sure if she’ll be able to afford that PLUS tuition…
- Unforeseen expenses – Judy is single and plans to remain that way during school. She’s also very religious and doesn’t believe in sex out-of-wedlock. However, she knows to budget a couple grand during school, just in case something of her’s breaks down.
- Average Salary – She knows that most people out of good MBA programs make at least $100,000, so she’s not too concerned.
- Prospect of moving forward – She knows the degree helps with some industries, like consulting and banking, but she’s not sure how it will help her move up the corporate ladder
- Employability – Most of the schools say that 90% of the students are employed within 6 months. She feels good about her prospects, though.
- Happiness – Judy hasn’t really thought about whether or not getting this degree to become a CEO will make her happy. She just wants to be an important person with lots of money.
- Fulfillment – Judy has wanted this since she was 18. She’s very sure that she’ll be fulfilled being a CEO.
- Lifestyle – She fully expects to be golfing with clients and wining and dining them afterwards. She figures it can’t be all that draining…
- Prestige – Some of the MBA schools are really high-ranking, which makes Judy feel important, special, and intelligent.
FINAL VERDICT – JUDY NEEDS MORE INFORMATION
When Judy asks herself, “Should I go to grad school?“, her honest answer should be, “I really don’t know yet.” When it comes to the number side of things, Judy seems to have her ducks all in a row. She’s got a pretty solid (typical) financial plan, and even knows someone who might be able to help her with financial aid. However, there are lots of holes in her argument about going to do an MBA. For example, she’s making the assumption that she’ll make at least six figures out of school. Depending on the school/industry she enters, that could be VERY far from the truth. She also doesn’t know if the MBA will move her forward in her career. She’s pretty sure, but she doesn’t have any actual evidence to support it. She’s also got some misconceptions about her level of happiness and her lifestyle once she’s a CEO. Overall, I’d say Judy needs to talk about pursuing an MBA with someone who’s in the position she seeks. That way, she can KNOW whether or not she’s making the right choice.
Should I go to Grad School? – The Wrap Up
Congrats on making it to the end! Remember, there are three things that matter when deciding to pursue grad school:
- How much will you have to put in?
- How much can you reasonably expect to get out?
- What soft factors matter to you and will influence your decision?
Have you ever thought of going to grad school? If so, what degree? If you pursued it, comment below as to why you did! If you didn’t, let us know why you opted not to continue your education (or maybe just postpone it).
Keep trying to crack the code,