- slide 1 of 4
Who needs more school, anyway?
It's the rare student who completes a postgraduate (doctoral) degree; by this time, you've most likely spent four years on an undergraduate degree and two years on a master's degree. Why keep going? Someone with a PhD is likely to make less over his lifetime than someone with a master's, just because of the additional four years out of the workforce (and associated student loans). Having the terminal degree can even make it harder to find a job, as employers who would hire someone with a lower degree will assume you'll leave when something better comes along. Not only that, but there's no guarantee of finishing; unlike most earlier degrees, the PhD always requires original research; the student must make "a significant contribution to the literature". So is all this extra stress worth it? What are the advantages of postgraduate studies?
- slide 2 of 4
"The more education you have, the fewer jobs you qualify for. They're just better jobs."
The title of this section is a quote from Darrell Whitley, the chair of my department, in a seminar he gave soon after I started my PhD. His point was well-taken: as you gain more education, you tend to become overqualified for most jobs, but the ones you do qualify for tend to be more interesting.
Nobody gets a doctorate unless they like to think and enjoy being challenged; positions that require a PhD tend to depend on exactly those attributes. Jobs that require being able to do a strictly defined task on a short deadline can be better handled by someone with an undergraduate degree; PhDs are better for tasks that require applying knowledge in new ways. The obvious one is university professor, but many large companies - AT&T. Google, IBM, and Microsoft, to name a few - hire PhDs to do research.
Aside from being a requirement for many positions, the process of getting a PhD teaches you how to do independent research; by the time you complete the degree, you should understand how to define your problem and execute a plan to solve it.
Of course, the networking benefits are important as well; when applying for a high-level position, it's always helpful to know experts in the area who can pick up the phone and tell your future employer how wonderful you are!
- slide 3 of 4
Thinking of teaching? Be a GTA..
Rather than paying tuition, many graduate and postgraduate students take on a position as Graduate Teaching Assistant, teaching (or helping with) a class in exchange for tuition and a small stipend. While the money usually isn't comparable to what you'd make at a full-time job, the hours tend to be more flexible and it provides the opportunity to obtain the type of real-life teaching experience you'll need if you want to teach college after finishing your degree. Teaching a class is also a great way to become more familiar with the material!
- slide 4 of 4
Never mind work, let's have some fun!
Of course, postgraduate education has plenty of benefits that don't directly relate to finding employment. Particularly, it's an opportunity to spend time with a number of smart people, many of whom will be experts in various aspects of your field. This makes for a great environment for learning about your area of study; in fact, many people consider the out-of-class collaboration to be more important than the actual classes!
For a busy adult, it's rare to have an extended time to focus on one particular thing; postgraduate studies not only allow but encourage that. For gaining a real in-depth knowledge of something, even if you never intend to do anything practical with it, grad school is the way to go!