Is graduate school worth it?

By Shawn Gakhal shawnonthetorch@gmail.com

Whether or not graduate school is worth it will depend, most likely, on the major the student seeks to pursue and whether the value exceeds the cost.

While most college students race to finish their degrees on time, others choose to improve their skills and move toward the master’s route for the higher potential pay, opportunities and knowledge that comes with it.

The Torch asked a Roosevelt University sociology professor, a current graduate student and an undergraduate for their takes on the viability of graduate school.

Last June, Forbes released a survey entitled “Best and Worst Master’s Degrees for Jobs Right Now,” in which it compiled data using Payscale.com and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to project future employment and how fast it would grow between 2010 to 2020.

According to Forbes, for information systems, physics, computer science and most engineering majors, graduate school is worth it.

An information systems degree took the number one spot, and those in the field make $101,000 for their mid-career median pay, while also enjoying a 30 percent increase in projected employment from 2010 to 2020.

Physics majors make out like bandits, also.

“Mid-career median pay for these grads is $117,000; fourth best out of the 35 degrees in our survey,” Forbes said. “Employment opportunities for physics and degree-holders are expected to expand about 22 percent between 2010 and 2020 — making it the seventh fastest growing degree.”

On the flip side, “library and information science degree-holders bring in $58,500 mid-career, on average” with an expected employment growth rate of only 7 percent by 2020, making it the worst-ranked master’s degree.

The news didn’t fare any better for history, biology, English, music and political science majors, as they all ranked in the bottom 10 for future potential earnings and job growth.

“I think it depends on what I plan to do once I become a teacher,” said Karen Lopez, an undergraduate elementary education major. “For now, I just want to teach and be a part of kids’ lives — be influential. But I think if I wanted to develop my career further, then yeah I would go to grad school. It would be extremely important.”

Lopez also said the potentially high costs of graduate school would be a factor in her decision to go.

“I’m worried about that now,” she said. “So that’s a huge factor, whether or not I even have the option. But the biggest factor is my three-year-old son, so I have to take that into account, too.”
MFA creative writing student Eric Balaz said, “It depends on what you expect to get out of it, as well as which discipline [you choose].”

Balaz also commented on the positive nature of internships and on why liberal arts students might be more inclined to go to graduate school.

“It is more advantageous for most degrees to get internships before going to grad school,” he said.“But for potential fine and liberal arts master’s students, it is more about gaining more knowledge and skill in the specific field of choosing.”

Even though costs and other factors play into the decision to go or not, there are also underappreciated variables, such as the ability to expand one’s own knowledge and passion for the field.

“I think it’s worth it for a number of reasons,” said Al Bennett, a professor of education/public policy. “Clearly, there’s an opportunity to learn, expand and increase your knowledge on a particular topic. So there’s a passion that has to be there in order for you to succeed at graduate school. You shouldn’t go if you think this is going to make you $20,000 more a year, especially at the doctorate level. You should have a passion for your work, field and your research.”

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