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Why You Shouldn't Enroll in Graduate School

There are careers that require that you hold a graduate degree. You can't be a doctor, lawyer, or college professor without one. However, most real-world positions do not require that employees hold graduate degrees. In fact, many employers will hire a person with a bachelor's degree over a person with a master's degree because, in general, they both have the same level of experience, but the employer will have to pay the person with the master's degree more than the person with the bachelor's degree.

Just as there are reasons to go to grad school, there are reasons not to. A recent article by Penelope Trunk offers five reasons NOT to go to grad school:

1. A humanities PhD makes you less employable not more employable.
Most people who get degrees in humanities will not get teaching jobs. And people who are looking for jobs in the corporate world, with a humanities PhD under their belt look like someone who tried to teach but couldn't. Or, worse yet, it looks like you spent five years getting a degree you had not made a plan for using. Both cases serve to make you "probably not even qualified to run a cash register," according to Thomas Benton, a columnist in the Chronicle of Higher Learning who is discouraging people from pursuing these degrees.

2. You can shift careers by enrolling in a night-class.
Marci Alboher did this - she was a lawyer and took a class in writing, and now look: She's writing for the New York Times about, what else? How you don't need to get a degree to change careers, you just need to take a class. Of course, this won't work in all circumstances, but the majority of fields require some knowledge, but not a degree.

3. Grad school is a bad way to deal with uncertainty.
If you don't now what to do, and you go to grad school to buy time, and then you figure out what you want to do, you will always have to answer the question, why grad school? It will be hard to come up with an answer that doesn't reveal that you went back to school so you didn't have to deal with adult problems. Better to flail in the work world and learn what you like then put it off. Grad school is too expensive to be a backup plan.

4. People who love to learn don't need a degree for it.
Don't go to grad school because you love poetry. If you love poetry, read it. No one dictates to you what you have to do after work. If you want to read poems, fine. Why do you need a degree? What will that accomplish besides putting you into debt? Anyway, a good job allows you to learn so much that it is like a continuation of school anyway.

5. Use LinkedIn instead of an MBA.
Okay. I'm sort of exaggerating here, but so many people say they are going to business school for the networking opportunity. Instead, these people should consider spending all that time on networking instead of going to class. Business school makes connections for you, but they might not be for the best; I once read an essay that suggested that business schools are merely headhunters who charge a fee to the employee.

Students who are considering enrolling in graduate school really need to consider their reasons before taking the plunge. If grad school is simply another way of finding the job that your bachelor's degree didn't win you, you may even want to consider going to a two-year college and learning a trade.


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