Why graduate school?
Some careers require it. Some prefer it. Or you may just love learning and want to continue on with college. No matter what your motivation, it’s not too early for you to start thinking about grad school.
Why go to graduate school? There are many different reasons why you might want to get a graduate degree. Here are some you may not have considered, courtesy of GradSchools.com.
• Gain an advantage over others in your career. “These days, it takes a graduate education to set you apart when you go into the job market,” says Clara Pitts of GradSchools.com.
• Immerse yourself in what you are passionate about. Undergrad gives you the opportunity to take many different kinds of classes and discover your passion. Grad school allows you to explore that passion in-depth.
“In grad school, you can study the few things you’re most interested in,” says Pitts. “It’s a great opportunity to dive into a specific area and become an expert in a way you won’t get with an undergrad education. It gives you a leg up when going in search of a job.”
• Earn more money. More education equals more money. People with master’s or doctoral degrees have been shown to earn higher salaries than those with bachelor’s degrees. Also, you are likely to start your career at a higher level and advance faster with a graduate degree.
Who goes to grad school?
If you want to be a doctor, lawyer or clinical worker, you will need to get a graduate degree. For most other professions, a graduate degree is not required.
Several colleges offer programs through which you can earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in five years.
This option saves you time, as a bachelor’s degree takes four years and a master’s typically takes an additional two to three.
You will also save money by only paying for five years of school, not six or more. Not to mention you’ll save the energy it takes to apply to grad schools while you’re an undergrad.
“Five-year programs are a way of combining undergrad and grad degrees into one continuous, seamless process,” says Victoria Bobik, senior associate director of undergraduate admission at Monmouth University (monmouth.edu).
Monmouth offers five-year programs in several disciplines, including history, business, English, social work and computer science. Students are offered admission when they apply as freshmen and must maintain a certain GPA to stay in the program.
Bobik says that different colleges have different ways of administering five-year programs. For example, some allow students to take grad courses while they are still in undergrad; other programs have students start grad courses the summer after senior year of undergrad.
At Bentley University (bentley.edu), students are eligible to apply for and enroll in the Five-Year Graduate School Preparatory Program between their sophomore and junior years.
“They get to take graduate classes in their senior year, so it’s a way to jumpstart their curriculum,” says Ellen Snedeker, associate director of graduate admission and adjunct assistant professor of law at Bentley. “…You’re already here; you might as well stay an extra year and just finish while you’re in the mode.”
Start planning now?
Maybe, says Pitts.
“The sooner you start thinking about it, the better,” she says. “If you know what you want to do, you can choose a college based on what you might be thinking about doing later. Maybe you’ll stay at a place because you’ll know the faculty. I think it’s definitely something to be forward-thinking about, so when you get into college you’ll have the mindset that you may be going further.
“The flip side is that my experience has been that a lot of people go to college thinking they know what they want to do and end up in something completely different. You may not give yourself the room to explore. There’s definitely a lot of reasons why it’s important to be thinking about graduate school, but it’s equally important for students to go to college open to seeing what their options are.”