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How Graduate School Can Benefit Your Career

Deciding whether to attend grad school — for both recent graduates and those who have been out of school for years — is often a complicated decision. With the rising cost of tuition, you want to know that graduate school is worth it. Will attending grad school really pay off for your career?

The answer may vary for each individual, but in many cases, grad school offers numerous career benefits. These include providing a competitive advantage, securing a higher salary and better opportunities, developing professional skills, and expanding your professional network.

Let’s take a closer look at how investing in graduate school can yield a substantial professional return-on-investment.

Competitive Advantage

Today, people commonly refer to the master’s degree as “the new bachelor’s degree.” As more people earn bachelor’s degrees, advanced degrees are needed to stand out from the competition. And nearly one-third (about 32%) of employers are raising the educational bar for new hires, according to CareerBuilder.

Based on a CareerBuilder survey, 27% of employers are seeking individuals with master’s degrees for jobs that used to require only a bachelor’s degree. Meanwhile, 37% are hiring college graduates for jobs that once went to people with high school diplomas. That means if you want to keep your options open, a master’s degree may be the way to go.

Additionally, the number of master’s degree holders in the United States has increased by 43% since 2002. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18% of all jobs will require a master’s degree by 2022. For job seekers interested in staying competitive, attending grad school is an increasingly good idea.

How To Really Know if Grad School Is the Right Decision

Potential Increase in Salary

Earning an advanced degree can also help you earn a higher salary. A 2015 survey by Georgetown University reported that college grads with a bachelor’s degree earn an average salary of $61,000 over the course of their careers. Meanwhile, graduates with master’s degrees earn $78,000 per year.

That’s a difference of $17,000. Still, the increase in salary your degree will get you depends on your career. For example, according to the Georgetown survey, an advanced degree in pharmaceutical sciences administration may earn you about $5,000 more annually than a four-year degree. On the other hand, the difference between a bachelor’s and a master’s in Economics can translate to as much as $33,000 per year.

The bottom line is that if you want to make more money, attending graduate school can help you do it. If you want to know just how much more money, you’ll need to do some research on the career you’re interested in pursuing.

Possibility of a Promotion

Going to graduate school is also one way to climb the career ladder. An advanced degree makes you a more competitive candidate at the start of your career, and it also helps you remain competitive throughout. When it’s time to promote, many employers are more likely to look to employees with advanced degrees.

If you’ve reached a plateau in your career, going back to grad school may help you get over the hump. It shows that you have the initiative to continue learning and improving, something that certainly appeals to most managers.

Advanced Professional Skills

Earning your graduate degree does more than show initiative, however. You’ll also develop advanced, specialized professional skills. Naturally, specialized skills often open the door to higher level positions and opportunities.

Graduate school builds general skills in research, writing, and analysis as well. Together, these skills will make you a better problem-solver with the ability to successfully complete complex projects. You’ll also improve your communication and leadership skills, which are valuable skills for anyone seeking career advancement.

Although a graduate degree doesn’t necessarily mean an automatic promotion, it will likely make you better at your current job. And that could easily translate to a promotion down the road. If it doesn’t, try leveraging your advanced degree to secure a more advanced position elsewhere.

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Modernized Skills

As technology rapidly advances, staying competitive in many careers requires updated skills. Instead of investing in upskilling their employees, some employers prefer to hire younger recent graduates.

If you feel behind the times in your current career, going back for your graduate degree can bring you up to speed. You’ll learn the latest research, best practices, and technology in your field. You may discover fresh ideas, unique perspectives, and renewed enthusiasm and passion for your career.

Expanded Professional Network

Did you know that networking, or making personal connections, can increase your chances of landing an interview by five to 10 times? Graduate school is an excellent way to enhance the quality of your professional network.

Attending graduate school will introduce you to professionals from a variety of backgrounds and industries. You’ll make connections with some of the best and brightest in your field, including your professors. You may even get the opportunity to work closely with your professors on research or teaching.

Internships with industry experts may also be a required component of your grad school program. From your classmates, to your professors, to the connections you make during internships, every individual you meet may lead to exciting career opportunities in the future.

Final Thoughts: How Graduate School Can Benefit Your Career

If you’re on the fence about graduate school, it’s certainly a good idea to conduct thorough research and weigh the decision carefully. However, investing in an advanced degree will likely give your career a boost by:

  • Providing a competitive advantage (and access to a wider range of jobs)
  • Leading to an increase in salary (about $17,000 more annually, on average)
  • Helping you secure a promotion
  • Developing specialized and modernized skills (in-demand hard and soft skills)
  • Enhancing your professional network

Grad school is an especially solid option if a master’s degree is important in your field, or if you feel that you’ve come to a standstill in your current career. It’s also valuable if you’re an avid learner interested in taking your professional abilities to the next level.

And in almost any field, the advanced skills, knowledge, and opportunities that come with an advanced degree make grad school a worthwhile investment.

Find the right grad school for you

Author: Jason Patel

Jason Patel is the founder of Transizion, a college counseling and career services company that provides mentorship and consulting on college applications, college essays, resumes, cover letters, interviews, and finding jobs and internships. Jason’s work has been cited in The Washington Post, BBC, NBC News, Forbes, Fast Company, Bustle, Inc., Fox Business, and other great outlets. Transizion donates a portion of profits to underserved students and veterans in of college prep and career development assistance.