Let’s face it, industry isn’t suited for everybody. Two years ago, I left my job in Silicon Valley and returned home determined to find a new path. I wasn’t satisfied with how much I knew. Four years of undergraduate education in engineering had made me a Jack of All Trades and Master of None.
Suddenly, grad school didn’t seem so much a financial drain as a second chance towards enlightenment. But of course, I did plenty of research before deciding on this course of action and you should too. So what are the pros and cons?
Since I’m secretly an optimist, let’s start with the pros:
- A chance to specialize
You may not want to admit it, but your inner nerd is squealing at the opportunity to once more hit the books and take those ridiculous tests assigned by sadistic professors. Well, what better way to feed the nerd monster than signing up for higher education? I’m good enough with a Masters degree, but a pHD might well be up your alley!
- A reprieve from reality
Industry is not what we expect it to be when we’re cocooned in our safe college world. Unless you’ve done extensive internships as an undergrad, you may not be prepared for the real world. I know I wasn’t and it hit me hard. I felt incompetent and overwhelmed. Most times I was so lost I didn’t even know how to ask for help! I don’t regret my work experience at all, but I knew I needed to learn more and regain my confidence. So it was back to school for me!
- An opportunity to follow you passion
Maybe you made a mistake choosing your major the first time. Grad school might be your shot at chasing your dream major and then finally landing that dream job. If you have the background or are willing to take extra classes to fill the gaps, grad school can allow to change disciplines. It might take you longer to graduate, but it’s better than living a lie!
Now for the cons:
- Money, money, money!
We all know that with our screwed up education system, money is always a stitch. Grad school comes with a hefty bill and unfortunately, even if you got into the top schools you might have ti turn them down for financial reasons. There are scholarships, loans, and work-study options of course and if you’re determined enough, you’ll find a way. Just think twice if financial drain is a serious issue. If I had to choose between putting food on the table or buffing my brain, the former is numero uno for survival!
- Small or no ROI
You know what I don’t understand? People who choose to go to grad school for a major they’ve already completed! I have a BS in Biomedical Engineering. I could have pursued a MS in the same discipline but I chose not to because in this field, an MS opens up research doors, which I’m not interested in. So I chose to do a Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering. There are students however who are doing a Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering even though they already have a BS in it! In many ways, it’s like they’re repeating their undergrad education twice. This adds absolutely no value to their degree and is a complete waste of time and money, in my opinion.
On the other hand, there’s always a possibility of choosing a a discipline that is intellectually fascinating, but won’t pay your bills upon graduation. Grad school is supposed to raise the standard of living by increasing the salary one can expect before and after graduation. Sadly, some subjects like sociology, philosophy, art, etc; may not add those in the right places. In this case, pursue grad school for the poor joy of following your passion rather than to add any value to your standard of living after.
Based on my list above, I think we can safely conjecture that grad school can add value to one’s life and may even raise the standard of living for some. In the end, I think it all boils to one question: are you ready to hit the books, grind harder than ever before, and take those tests? If so, apply on!