In To Go or Not to Go: Deciding if Grad School is Right for you, Sarah McLean Cannon provided the following for those contemplating grad school:
Graduate school is not quite as glamorous as your TA’s make it out to be. If you’re seriously thinking about continuing your education, below are some questions you need to ask yourself.
What do I want to be when I grow up?
Some positions (i.e. public relations professor) require graduate degrees. Some organizations do not require advanced degrees, but the added education gets you higher salaries and/or prevents you from hitting a “glass ceiling.” Other organizations value experience more than graduate degrees.
Graduate programs can unofficially be categorized as academic (preparing students towards getting a doctoral degree) or professional (preparing students for a PR career).
Do I have the grades to get in and stay in?
Getting in: Graduate programs have grade and standardized test requirements (GRE for M.A.). Look at your transcript and talk with your advisor to see if you meet admissions requirements. Take practice tests before taking the actual GRE.
Staying in: Most programs require a B average or better to count towards graduation credit. They also require a thesis or a passing score on comprehensive exams in order to receive your degree.
Should I work for a couple of years before going to grad school?
After working in public relations for a couple of years, some people decide the profession is not for them. Make sure you definitely like the profession before you invest time and money into a graduate degree.
On the other hand, going straight to graduate school has some perks as well: staying on your parents’ payroll (if you’re lucky), continuing in “study mode,” getting an advanced degree out of the way before starting your career, etc.
Do I like to analyze theoretical material and write long papers?
Graduate school work is different from undergraduate work. When reading is assigned, you REALLY do have to complete it. Classes occur only once or twice a week so attendance is crucial. There are fewer exams and assignments so they count more. Necessary skills include time management, research, anti-procrastination, etc.
Am I OK with poverty for a couple of years?
While graduate assistantships and internships are available, many graduate students take out loans for tuition and/or living expenses. While your friends are receiving salaries from their first jobs, you might still be begging your parents for gas money. A master’s degree may give you a salary boost later in life, but you’re missing out on two years of salaried income and taking on years of student loan payments.
Last, but not least…
Am I looking for a rewarding learning experience?
Graduate school is both demanding and satisfying. You will read, write and research until your brain aches, but there are few other places where you will have the opportunity to discuss topics that you are passionate about with others who share similar interests.