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Should I Go to Grad School? Here are 5 Bad Reasons

An aisle in a library showing full bookshelves on either side and at the end

There are many things to consider when deciding whether or not to pursue a graduate degree. In a companion piece, we detailed five good reasons to go to grad school. Here, we offer reasons you may want to rethink it, as well as some alternative options that might be better suited to your situation. Read on for five bad reasons to go to grad school.

1. You think that grad school is necessary to advance in your career (but it actually isn’t)

Pursuing a graduate degree is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor, so it’s important to do your research to determine if it’s actually a necessary step on the way to achieving your career goals. Start your research with some good old fashioned networking! Schedule  informational interviews with working professionals or representatives from graduate programs in your field of interest. Speaking with others will help you determine if continuing education is required to get where you want to go, and at what point in your career you should consider enrolling.

If your contacts tell you that a degree may not be necessary, ask them what steps they took to advance in their own careers. There are plenty of alternatives to enrolling in a graduate program, such as professional development workshops, individual college classes, or certification courses; you may want to consider one of these options instead.

As you explore what’s available to you, remember that everyone’s path is different, and that what was right for one professional may not be right for you. While any intel you can get is helpful, ultimately the decision is yours to make.

2. You think you need a graduate degree to change careers

If you're interested in transitioning to a new role or field, you may not need a graduate degree to make that happen. Something like a continuing education course may offer you an opportunity to explore without taking on the cost, effort, and time commitment of a graduate program.

To dip your toe before diving into a career change, consider volunteering or interning at an organization you might like to work for. This can give you insight on whether the job would be a good fit without committing too much, too soon.

3. You think graduate school is the best way to explore topics of interest

While grad school can be wonderful for discovering your passion and opening doors to new opportunities, it’s possible to learn about a given topic without enrolling in a graduate program. Depending on your particular learning style, consider:

  • Volunteering with a mission-driven organization, such as the American Red Cross if you’re interested in public health and safety, for example.
  • Taking a continuing education class at your local community college. 
  • Joining a membership organization that allows you to learn more about a topic through group discussions, lectures, and training programs.

If after exploring one or more of these avenues you find that you are still wanting more, then a graduate degree may be a good option.

4. You don’t like your current job

Unfortunately, it’s not entirely uncommon to feel unhappy or unsatisfied at work, and while a drastic change may sound like the perfect solution, attending grad school isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.

Unless you were already considering a graduate degree or feel that you’ve reached a point where continuing education is necessary, graduate school may be a bit of an extreme way to improve your job satisfaction.

If you don’t like your job, there are other ways to transition to a new career. And while grad school can be a great way to advance professionally, we don’t recommend making your decision based solely on a desire to fix your current job situation.

5. You don’t know what to do with your life 

Despite its many benefits, graduate school is not a recommended means to gaining personal or professional clarity, as it probably won’t help you identify and define your personal and professional goals (if you didn’t already have a few in mind to begin with). Besides, there are other ways to figure all of that out. Consider these suggestions instead:

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Still unsure about grad school? A good litmus test for the clarity of your vision may be your personal essay. If you are having a difficult time articulating your reasons for applying to a graduate program, you probably won’t be able to convince an admissions committee—which may mean you’re not quite ready for that next step.

If you’ve gone through this post and are still eager to move forward in your graduate school journey, that’s great! To find the right program and get all of your grad school-related questions answered, join us for the next Idealist Grad School Fair!