For many people, attaining a bachelor's degree is just the beginning. A lot of folks like to continue their education by getting their Master's or Ph.D. If you don't want to go to graduate school, that's perfectly fine. It's not for everyone. I'll be the first person to tell you that. Graduate school isn't for me, and I've known that since I graduated from undergrad nearly nine years ago. I knew that graduate school comes with risks and rewards.
More Student Debt
According to The Student Loan Report, in 2015 the average student loan debt was $28,000. That's just counting undergrad. Graduate school can cost between another $30,000 - $120,000 depending on the program. Let's just say your program is on the high end and it costs $90,000. Now add that to the $35,000 that you borrowed in undergrad. You are now looking at being over $120,000 in student loan debt. Nobody wants to be in that predicament after they graduate.
Unless you have a scholarship, the means to pay in cash, or have a job that reimburses you for your education, you will be getting yourself into student debt regardless of your financial aid options. For many grad students, federal options run a little thin between Grad PLUS loans or Stafford loans. This often leads them to rely on private loans for college, but at this stage in their lives, these options often come with higher interest. Don't forget either that the federal options for grad students mentioned earlier are typically higher cost loans as well.
All said and done, a graduate student can normally get the funding they need, but they are basically signing up for extremely high levels of debt given the cost of graduate school. Having to pay that amount of money back is an uphill battle for anyone.
A Job is Not Guaranteed
A lot of people fail to realize that a job is not guaranteed once you get a graduate degree. While earning a master's degree or higher looks good on your resume, for some industries it still won't get you a job. For some careers, the job market is oversaturated. If that's the case, your higher level degree will not help you there. I've known people that went on to get a master’s degree, and they still could not find a job in their career. That's a shame. Instead of working in their field, those people had to get a job anywhere that they could. Bills and student loan payments have to be made.
According to Forbes, the average salary for someone with only a bachelor's degree is $45,000. For some majors, it makes sense to get a graduate degree, and for others, it doesn't. A fine arts major with a master’s degree average salary is $46,000. Someone with an early childhood masters average salary is $48,000. Those are both on the low end. If you get a master’s degree in statistics, you can expect to make $113,000 per year. A person with a physics masters can look forward to having an average salary of $137,000. There is a big difference with the last two degrees than it is with the first two.
I've discussed a little about the risks of getting a graduate degree, but I want to discuss the rewards.
Make More Money
If you get the right graduate degree, you have the chance to make a lot more money than someone who didn't get one. According to US News people with bachelor degrees earn about $2.22 million over their lifetime. With a master’s degree, you will earn about $2.67 million over your lifetime. That's a pretty good jump. The right industry and your ability to move up within the company play a big part in the amount of money that you can make. As I stated earlier, choosing the right program of study is very important.
Having a graduate degree can give you a better chance of getting a better job than someone with just an undergrad degree. Having a graduate degree may allow you to bypass some of the lower level jobs with certain businesses. For example, you will probably be able to enter immediately into a management position with some jobs instead of having to start out as a clerk or a sales person. As long as you work hard and network, your graduate degree should get you better opportunities.
As you've just read, there are some pros and cons for going to graduate school. If you're an entrepreneur or happy where you're currently at in life, a graduate degree probably isn't worth it for you. If you enjoy school and is considering taking up a program that has a lot of growth and excellent pay, then you may need to consider going to grad school. Every person's situation will be different. Some people will want to attend while others will not. This no right or wrong decision. Only you will know if it will be worth it or not. Before you apply for a program, review the risks and rewards beforehand. After you do that, you should be able to decide if grad school is worth it or not.