The Great Grad School Debate
By Rebecca Coates Nee
November 5th, 2001
Question: What do you do when the job market is tight and
the economy is in a free fall?
Answer: Hide out in graduate school! Many people are getting
the urge to go back to school these days. After all, what
could be a safer place to ride out these uncertain times?
You donít have to feel guilty about not making any money because
you are Ė after all Ė a student. Youíre supposed to starve!
You can even postpone that job search a few more years, live
off low-interest loans and put off deciding what you really
want to be until later.
Iím not down on grad school. I did it myself, many, many years
ago and have absolutely no regrets. Since my bachelorís was
in political science, my masterís in journalism from Northwestern
bought me some valuable training as a reporter.
My adventures in graduate school also got me a high-quality
tape and the awesome experience of covering Capitol Hill.
But before you start downloading applications and wistfully
thinking of lunching at the student union, take some time
to clearly identify why you want more education and assess
all the costs you will have to exchange for the benefits.
If youíre choosing grad school out of fear or indecision ó
youíre just postponing the inevitable.
Chances are you wonít be any more mentally fit to hit the
job hunting road after youíve completed your thesis. Figure
out what you really want your career and life to look like.
Then decide whether graduate school can help you get there.
Will a masterís degree really make you more marketable to
employers who hire people for your chosen profession? If you
want to work in broadcasting, for example, most news directors
will tell you a good internship ó where you did some actual
reporting and producing ó is often more helpful than a masterís
The internship idea can work in other professions as well.
I made my first switch from TV to public relations by offering
to work for free at the City of Palm Springs. Not only did
they pay me, they offered me a permanent position just a few
months later! Research your career choice.
Get yourself in the door by volunteering to help out. Thatís
the best way to decide if the career is really for you. Also,
check out the alumni of the school youíre considering. Where
are they now? Are those with advanced degrees making any more
money than those without? Remember the cost of graduate school
isnít just tuition. Itís also the loss of two years of salary
and the experience you could be getting on the job. Donít
forget that some employers will even pay for you to take classes
ó some stipulate the subject matter, others do not. If you
just want to go to grad school for the sake of learning, a
few adult education classes may be all you need. Donít skip
the great grad school debate before you enroll. If youíre
headed nowhere Ė thatís exactly where youíll end up, with
or without a masterís degree!