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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.