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Should You Go to Grad School? Making a Sound Financial Decision

written by: •edited by: Carly Stockwell•updated: 5/8/2014

If you are a current undergrad student, recent graduate, or a working professional, the thought of Graduate School has probably crossed your mind. Read on to weigh the pros and cons of Higher Education for your future.

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    To Graduate School or Not, that is the Question

    Should You Go to Grad School? Making the Best Financial Decision Many college graduates think about going on to advance their degree, however, it is not always the best choice for everyone. Every individual needs to weigh the pros and cons of graduate school to see if it makes sense for their chosen profession and personality. Here are some essential things to think about before you consider applying to any post graduate program.

    PRO: It's Required to Advance Your Profession.

    While many professions do not require an advanced degree, it is always best to research during undergrad the ones that do. The following are 5 Careers that Require a Masters Degree:

    • Physician Assistant
    • School and Career Counselors
    • Social Workers
    • School Administrators
    • Marriage and Family Therapists

    PRO: It Will Increase Your Salary and Earning Potential.

    While plenty of professions provide decent income with a Bachelors, many see a significant increase in median pay once a Masters is obtained. This is according to of the top best-paying Master's Degrees:

    • Master's in Electrical Engineering

    Median Pay: $121,000

    • Master's in Finance

    Median Pay: $120,000

    • Master's in Chemical Engineering

    Median Pay: $117,000

    • Master's in Economics

    Median Pay: $114,000

    • Master's in Physics

    Median Pay: $113,000

    Not surprisingly, engineering and technology degrees are in high demand in today's economy.

    PRO: A Current Employer Will Pay for Graduate School.

    This is the ideal situation, where a current employer will reimburse tuition costs as long as the student maintains a specified grade point average. This can be tricky if you are a current employee and will need to balance part-time school with full-time work, but it is the absolute best way to obtain a Masters without incurring debt. If you choose to leave the workforce and go for Higher Ed full-time, you should factor in that loss of income.

    CON: You are Looking for a Reason to Defer Your Undergraduate Loans, or You Can't Find a Job Post-Undergrad.

    Deferring loans will only delay the inevitable payback, and grad school comes with a hefty price tag. According to, graduate students routinely finish with $30,000 debt, on top of the average undergrad debt of $25,000. "When trying to determine how much a degree is worth, the starting-year salary guideline is a good rule of thumb. Prospective grad students should calculate what their expected salary at graduation, then borrow no more than that amount." Difficulty in finding a job right out of college should not be the main reason for choosing Graduate School because an advanced degree does not guarantee success in every field.

    CON: You Need to Find Out "What You Want to Do in Life."

    Graduate School is for the serious, highly motivated who need specialized skills or have an insatiable appetite to acquire them. It is not for the faint of heart who lack vision and are simply looking for a way to discover themselves.

    Pursuing an advanced degree should be a calculated risk based on your present profession, income, and future goals. It should not be based as a last resort approach towards a career.


  • Grad School Math: Which Degrees are Worth the Debt?
  • 5 Careers that Require Master's Degrees