Many careers offer a variety of job opportunities for those holding only an undergraduate degree, while certain jobs, like doctors and lawyers, require advanced degrees. If you want to remain competitive in an ever-changing job market, an undergraduate degree is increasingly not enough to land the solid, well-paying jobs of the future. A graduate degree can make a difference in your career and earning potential.

Deciding to go to graduate school is an important career choice that requires considerable thought, planning, time, and effort. You need to have a clear understanding of what you want to do with your career and how a graduate degree will help you reach your career goals.

Here are a few things to think about when considering an advanced degree:

Career advancement/Salary. Executive-level positions in your current industry may not be open to individuals with only a bachelor’s degree. Most studies show that people with advanced degrees earn an average of 35–50 percent more than those with only a bachelor’s degree.

Career change. You may decide it’s time to make a career change. Your interests have changed and you realize that additional education and training is required to transition into a new career field.

Marketability. An advanced degree may be needed to keep your skills current and make you more qualified for career advancement.

Professional licensing. If you are in a career related to treating and counseling patients, generally a graduate degree is needed to meet state and national licensing requirements.

Teaching. A master’s degree is needed if you want to teach at a community college. To teach at a four-year institution, a doctorate may be required. In some fields, like education, having an advanced degree can actually hurt you in a job search if you have little or no job experience.

Personal enrichment. Graduate school may be an excellent option if you enjoy learning and have a strong desire to enhance your knowledge in a particular area of study or research.

Having a graduate degree does not guarantee career success or a higher salary. In some cases, it is better to wait a few years and gain relevant experiences than to attend right after you complete your bachelor’s degree. It takes a considerable amount of time to prepare for graduate school: You have to research and choose a graduate school or program, prepare applications, take required admission tests, write a personal essay, and obtain recommendations. The cost of graduate programs will determine what financial aid you will need to make attending feasible.

Deciding to attend and coming up with a plan for getting into graduate school are not easy. The Career Center can help you navigate the decision making and preparation process. The Graduate School Series of workshops will provide tips on how to finance graduate school, write an effective essay, and provide test-taking strategies for the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). Registration is required to guarantee a seat. Attend the Central Illinois Graduate School Fair October 16 and meet with recruiters from a variety of graduate school programs. Learn more by visiting the Career Center’s website or by calling (309) 438-2200.

2 thoughts on “Should you consider obtaining a graduate degree?

  1. Hi Maureen, with the “worldwide” recession still with us – we are sometimes forced in making a career change. The secret to surviving these days is being “flexible” and being willing to learn new skills. I have been able to survive in spite of being 55 and laid off since 2008. What helped me was Nicholas Lore’s book “The Pathfinder” – maybe you could feature him on your site. He also runs the Rockport Institute which has an AWESOME “Career Change” program. Love your article! Thanks, Angela J. Shirley

    1. Angela,

      Thanks for your comments. I will check out “The Pathfinder.”