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Grad School Guide

Why should you go to graduate school in STEM?

The following are a few reasons to consider going to graduate school. These reasons especially apply to science and engineering majors, but some of them are true for other majors as well.

  1. To increase your earning potential: Employers understand that academic institutions do a great job of training students–especially graduate students. After your undergraduate degree, you will have a base of knowledge that can be compounded upon. You stand to learn a significant amount of complex, specialized skills that most companies will pay more for.
  2. To improve your competitive chances in hiring and promotions: When you come into competition with your peers during hiring and promotions, it never hurts to have a graduate degree. Graduate degrees are not the only criteria considered by good companies (prior performance, for example, can make a huge difference), but having one typically makes you more competitive.
  3. To get specialized skills in a particular area of science or engineering: (See point 1.) In undergrad, you get a breadth of knowledge in your major. In graduate school, you get to specialize in the topics that were most interesting to you.
  4. Because you want to do original research: It is possible to do research as an undergraduate, but you will likely be supporting a graduate student’s project. If you want to conduct your own research project from start to finish, graduate school is a great path to pursue that.
  5. Because you want to be a professor: Professors spend most of their time doing research and teaching. Graduate school (particularly a PhD degree) will train you to perform some functions of your role as a professor. From a logistical standpoint, most faculty jobs also require that you have a PhD degree in a relevant field.
  6. Because, unlike college, you can actually get paid to go to grad school: If you are a PhD student you will be supporting a university’s research enterprise (just as an employee would) and you are paid for your work from the money that funds your research. This usually takes the form of tuition, a monthly stipend, and benefits (e.g., health insurance).  Some universities and external programs also fund for Masters students, but the funding is usually less and more difficult to get.

Bonus – Extend your academic “teenage years”: If you find that you really enjoy learning, graduate school can be a great place to explore more topics you may be interested in before settling on a career path. We do not recommend going to graduate school only for this reason. It’s best if coupled with one or more of the reasons listed above.