Why go to grad school? There are a lot of compelling reasons. You may want to improve your professional prospects, satisfy a degree requirement for your career, or deepen your knowledge in a particular field. That said, grad school is a big investment, both in terms of time and money. It’s important to be informed when making your determination and think about your long-term goals both personally and professionally. We explore some good reasons to pursue graduate school that we hope resonate with you and help you make your decision about next steps.
1. A graduate degree is necessary for your desired professional field
Certain fields such as health care, law, teaching, and social work require an advanced degree (or in some cases a certification) in order for you to legally practice or to be recognized as a professional. First, determine whether you need a certification or a degree to meet your professional requirements and consider if there are programs that allow you to work towards both. Which option is right for you will depend on many factors but gaining clarity about what are “need to have” and “nice to have” requirements for your professional field is a good place to start. As you research programs and schools, talk with people who have the job and degree that interests you. Ask them about what graduate education they received and what they considerations they made when selecting their program.
2. A graduate degree may improve your career
Grad school can help gain the skills and knowledge to you do your best work and better position you for more opportunities for advancement in your career. A graduate degree may also be a clincher in a negotiated pay raise. While a graduate degree does not automatically lead to a promotion in title, salary, or responsibility, it can be very rewarding.
Keep in mind however that a graduate degree is not the only option for professional development. Many institutions offer continuing education or certificate programs to meet the specific needs of working professionals who wish to build their skill set affordably and around their work schedule.
3. A graduate degree may increase your professional options and prospects
Going to grad school can help you gain more flexibility in the type of work you do currently, or prepare you for a bigger career transition, such as switching sectors, industries, or professions. A graduate education can help you gain advanced skills and in-depth knowledge of an area outside your specialty, or provide a solid foundation in a completely new area. Aside from the degree, grad school is also a great place to network. Your professionals, classmates, and peers all can all be great connections to keep as you pursue your career after grad school.
4. A graduate degree may nurture your intellectual curiosity and spark passion
Maybe there isn’t an immediate practical application for your desired graduate degree. That’s okay: curiosity can be one of the good reasons for going to grad school. Graduate school provides a space to be reflective and immerse yourself in your subject of interest that can be difficult to find outside of academia. However, it’s a costly way to pursue learning for learning’s sake. It’s worth taking a look at your finances and other considerations before pursuing graduate school for this reason alone.
5. A graduate degree can help you be a thought leader in the social impact field
Alongside opportunities to advance your own career, you’ll contribute to and can continue making a difference for social good with your education. For example, through research opportunities, you can take an in depth look at issues of interest and social justice. Additionally you can network and gain recognition in your sector and broaden your abilities and role in the social impact field.
Of course, we’ve only scratched the surface of some reasons you might consider going back to school. We hope this helps you with your initial thinking and eventual decision making. After reflecting on some of the considerations in this article, we recommend looking at your particular programs of interest. While the guidelines in this article are purposefully general, a lot of the grad school decision-making process comes down to the specifics of individual programs as well as your own particular preferences, needs, and aims. We wish you all the best as you think it through!
Be sure to also check out our companion piece, Not so Good Reasons to Go to Grad School to continue your thinking about next steps!