Should You Go To Grad School?

September 11, 2013


This is a post by Nelson, a staff writer on ThirtySixMonths. For those who know me, know that I have my MSc. in Micro Biology and quit took a break from my PhD program halfway through. I haven’t done a single thing in that field ever. 


Congratulations, young meat, you’ve finally waded your way through the unwashed masses of the zombies in undergrad, completing four years of hardcore drinking arduous studying. Here’s a fancy sheet of paper to hang on the wall. Hopefully, if you picked your major well, that sheet of paper is the ticket to a cushy life of higher wages and minions to do your bidding. Now it’s time to go get a job, slugger.

But wait. You don’t want to get a job, do you? Life at university is pretty awesome. People look at you funny in the real world when you get a little toasted on a Thursday night. Showing up to class in your PJ’s isn’t a big deal in college, but try doing that in the working world (unless you’re a mattress tester, except that job doesn’t really exist). School is a comfortable place, filled with attractive members of the opposite sex, like-minded people, delicious comfort food, and access to all the reefer you could ever smoke. Not that you would, but you like having the option.

Good news, perpetual adolescent, you don’t have to leave the comfy confines of your university campus. You can just go to grad school!

Because why would you want to go out and get a job when you can delay reality a little longer and study some more? Sure, you’ll only make yourself marginally more employable, but why worry about that? College is for learning and learning only, don’t worry about the return on investment. You’ll just confuse your brain. I mean, you could figure it out, because you’re college educated, but you just choose not to.

should I go to grad school, is grad school worth it.

What’s that? Job prospects aren’t so good for someone with your undergrad degree? Why, if only there was something you could have done about that four years ago. Okay, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you were steered in the wrong direction by an overzealous guidance counsellor or a parent pushing their unfulfilled dreams onto you. You picked a poor earning degree four years ago, and going to grad school will help correct that wrong. Because if there’s one thing that Starbucks needs, it’s another barista with a masters in women’s studies. Oh, I’m sorry. Getting your graduate degree will set you up for many awesome jobs. Like maybe teaching people about your chosen field. If you’re lucky. Wow, the sky really is the limit.

Sure, you could just consider the last four years a sunk cost and go out into the working world, but come on. That would only help you financially and probably mentally. Because if there’s one thing a new college graduate knows, it’s how it feels to hold down a full time job for years. Dealing with office politics, angry bosses, dissatisfied customers and TPS reports wouldn’t teach you a thing that you couldn’t learn in grad school by becoming an expert on a small slice of subject matter. No, you better stay in school and continue to bone up on something that, chances are, has become kinda boring at this point.

I get it. By not pursuing grad school, there’s no chance you’re going to find a job using your psychology or history degree. You’re admitting that the last four years were a colossal waste of time the minute you start applying for jobs at Walmart and the post office. So rather than moving on and maybe exploring a viable career that doesn’t require 4 years of education to get into, you’re going to go even further in debt to satisfy some intellectual curiosity you might have. Even though there are hundreds of jobs that are in demand that you could easily branch into. You’ve already determined you’re a good student, now maybe it’s time to learn something that will actually get you a job.

Or, you could go ahead and delay reality for a little longer while going to grad school. If you’re in one of the few fields where the extra education will make a difference in your earning power, take some time and seriously consider whether the return on investment makes sense. If you’re a women’s studies major, don’t even bother. Getting out into the workforce and earning money to pay back their loans should be that person’s first priority.


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  • Robb September 11, 2013 at 9:09 am

    I’m just going to go ahead and print this off and hang it all over our liberal arts campus.

    • Marissa September 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm


  • Mark Ross September 11, 2013 at 9:59 am

    After I finish my bachelor degree, I don’t plan to study anymore. I just want to explore and discover what I still can do by myself and without the help of any educational institution. I’m confident that I could land a job without studying on a grad school.

    • Marissa September 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      I’m sure you will!

  • Alicia @ Financial Diffraction September 11, 2013 at 10:08 am

    I just finished my PhD in the sciences 9 months ago. I went straight through undergrad into grad school – I even worked for my supervisor for the summer prior to starting grad school. Although most of my friends all went to grad school of some sort (MSc, MBA, JD, PhD) I feel behind in the game of life because I graduated at 27 rather than the “normal” 22. That being said, I am lucky to go straight into a career (actually had a bit of overlap between the end of grad school and full-time employment, which was chaotic to say the least), and a field that requires the extra credentials.

    • Marissa September 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      I know what you mean.

  • Jon @ MoneySmartGuides September 11, 2013 at 10:32 am

    I earned my Masters degree, but I took a job first and went to school at night so that my company could pay for it. I didn’t want to go into anymore debt to get the degree.

    At my previous job, I dealt with human resources personnel all of the time and they never wanted to call people in for an interview that went straight to grad school from undergrad because they didn’t have work experience and were expecting a graduate degree salary.

    • Marissa September 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      That’s interesting. I’m like that too. There is only so much you can learn in school.

  • Erin @ My Alternate Life September 11, 2013 at 10:56 am

    After I completed my bachelor’s in Accounting, I started an MBA program — mostly to get the 150 hours required to take my CPA exam. I quit halfway through because I was just going into more debt and I didn’t care about having an MBA. Turns out I don’t really care much about accounting or being a CPA either. Ah well, live and learn.

    • Marissa September 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      Ditto! MBAs are somewhat overrated.

  • Leona (allmydollarsandcents) September 11, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    I finished my bachelors with no debt. I finished my MBA with about $1,000 which I paid off pretty quickly, so not too bad.

    • Marissa September 11, 2013 at 5:31 pm

      Great job!

  • Dear Debt September 12, 2013 at 2:12 am

    Grad school was not the best decision for me, but it helped me with a lot of other goals of mine. I’ve had a total of $81k in student loans, and now at the $47k mark. It’s been a tough road, with lots of regret. I don’t recommend people go to grad school right after undergrad. Experience is far more relevant. I didn’t do that, and it’s what helped me get a job today. Not my degree. Experience will always trump education in my opinion.

    • Marissa September 13, 2013 at 1:28 am


  • moneystepper September 12, 2013 at 2:58 am

    Everytime I finish studying, I say to myself “great – that’s the last time I ever take an exam”.

    Inevitably, within a year I have decided that I want to further my education in another area and have suddenly signed up to another qualification with a set of stressful exams. ONE DAY, I will learn!! 🙂

    • Marissa September 13, 2013 at 1:29 am

      That’s interesting. Do you enjoy school?

  • femmefrugality September 13, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    Haha love this. If you’re in education (post or k12) a master’s can really help you land a good job depending on which area you live in. I know it’s really advantageous for SLPs, too. In some areas you won’t even be able to get employed without a masters in that field. Those are total exceptions, though.

    • Marissa September 16, 2013 at 4:05 am

      Totally agree with that being an exception, but I get what you’re saying.

  • Jimmy@ Finance Care Advice September 16, 2013 at 8:42 am

    What I think a masters degree can land a good job but you do not really need a master degree to find a job.

    • Marissa September 16, 2013 at 2:12 pm

      Agreed! Most people think that you need it.

  • Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa September 21, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    I went to grad school at night. During the day I worked in the field of my undergrad degree. Now that I finished grad school, I have a job in my new field… making about 30% less than I used to. There are many good reasons for grad school, but bigger bucks is not necessarily one of them.