Going to school is a pain in the ass in so many ways. But given the job market in most industries, having an advanced college degree is often necessary if you want a career that will also sustain you financially. These days, sometimes getting the gig or promotion you want means stacking degrees, which means that graduate school is not an option, but totally mandatory. Yet, there are so many annoying things people will say to you when you decide to go to grad school.
Going to grad school, whatever your motivation, is a huge decision.
In the U.S. at least, getting a graduate degree of any kind is time consuming and expensive. The GRE alone, the standardized test to apply to most grad schools, costs $160 just to take. That doesn’t even count the study materials and anxiety driven week ahead of the test date. Or figuring out how to pay for tuition once you get into a program.
The cost alone can make it feel like you’re totally stuck when you get the urge, or feel like you need to go to grad school. No one wants to take out loans or dip into their savings for a graduate degree all the while, usually, still working in some capacity. So it’s super easy to get disappointed or even hurt when you announce your decision to go for that masters or Ph.D and be met with blank stares from your family and friends. Because, duh, you’ve thought about this a lot.
For some professions, grad school is just built into the career path. Doctors, lawyers, educators, accountants — you have to pass a bunch of tests and go to school for a very long time to even be allowed into the field. Even then, especially for university professors or aspiring lawyers, it feels like there are way too many people with the *right* degree that still can’t land a job that will ensure them financial security, let alone joy, in work.
For others, grad school is sort of optional. It helps when it comes to promotions. It’s also another way of delving into something you find totally interesting, cost be damned. For that reason, you’ll get a lot of flak from at least one person in your life when you say you’re going to take the plunge. Here are a few familiar refrains.
1You don’t need it.
This is especially true of people getting a grad degree in creative fields, or even management technique. There are so many people out there who will swear that with a little extra effort, you can move ahead in your career without a few extra titles in your email signature. But what do they know?
Grad school might not be *totally* necessary for your career. But whatever happened to being passionate about learning? Going to grad school to change things up, make a move, and force yourself back into your passions, is valid enough reason to go for it.
2What about money?
OK, student loans are real. Some people going to grad school can get their employer to pay for it or at least ease the burden of tuition a little bit. Student loan interest rates just keep going up and the Trump administration’s proposed tax reform bill actually takes away student interest loan deductions. The System is not working for anyone who wants to learn or get a degree, in any capacity. It never has been. Even the most prestigious schools are “for profit” in some way or another.
You should think mighty hard before taking out more loans, but it’s *literally* the cost of admission, and sometimes it just has to be done. It might pay out in the end and it might not. But if your degree makes you feel more confident in salary negotiations, it might be worth it.
3How will you manage the work?
If you’re heading to grad school right after undergrad, you likely have schlepped through an internship or some side hustle to support yourself already. If you’ve taken a break from school and are deciding another degree is necessary to get ahead in your career, you know what *work* looks and feels like. Either way, you should feel totally confident in your ability to manage your time and make it happen. Anyone who asks this question is not-so-secretly negging you. Obviously, you know that school and supporting yourself — whatever that looks like — is something you’re going all in on.
4You’re just avoiding “work.”
This one hurts the most, sometimes. People choose different paths, which means that some of your loved ones just won’t get why you’d take a plunge into another degree program. But any grad program is basically a second job, so there’s nothing inherently lazy about going back to school, If anything, you’re just trying to get more, possibly more profitable, work in the long run. Going to grad school is an investment in your future and if you’ve already weighed the value of it, don’t listen to the haters.