Elementary school prepared us for middle school, middle school readied us for high school, and high school admitted us to college. After tough years filled with playground fights, embarrassing prom photos, and late-night study sessions, we are finally adults with an undergraduate degree. It’s time to put down the textbooks and take on the real world. Or is it?
“Unfortunately, the Bachelor’s degree is becoming like a high school degree,” says Joanna Newton, territory manager of the graduate school test preparation company The Princeton Review.
Advanced education is becoming seemingly more important. Newton says that with today’s economy, getting into a company can be difficult. Graduate school opens doors to more career opportunities and higher salaries.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2014 median weekly earnings for full-time workers holding a Bachelor’s degree were roughly $1,101 per week while holders of an advanced degree made about $1,386 per week.
“But you have to have a plan,” says Newton. “Map a timeline and work backwards from there.”
Newton says first, you have to decide your end goals for after graduate school.
“Choose a school with good networking for what you want to do,” she says. “Go where there are people who know the things you want to know.”
According to Newton, it’s important to decide whether you want to attend graduate school directly after your undergrad years or if you want to wait. This way, you can determine when to take your entrance exams.
“For example, if you plan on starting right away, take the GRE between junior and senior year of your undergrad,” she says.
For certain majors, there is an increased value of higher education. Newton says for majors like psychology, history or math, a student may get a job but not one in their field.
Newton says it’s also important to consider location because of the connections you make in graduate school. She says to consider going to school in a place you would want to settle and build a career.
“If you want to go (to school) outside of where you want to settle, pick a larger school with more networking opportunities,” Newton says. “Consider the things that are important for the future.”
Junior public relations major Chrysten Colacicco is a campus representative for the Princeton Review and says you have to think of graduate school as an investment.
“One of the big things to consider with grad school is if you will get a payoff for your program,” she says. “Grad school is really expensive so you want to make sure your salary is going to increase to the point it measures out (with what you paid).”
She says if you aren’t going to make that much money after the time, effort and money spent on grad school it may not be worth it to attend.
“Consider the jobs you’ll get with grad school versus without,” Colacicco says. “If you’re looking at public relations, for example, you can get a lot of jobs without going to grad school… but if you end up going, you’ll get a separate set of jobs.”
Colacicco says it’s important to consider if you’ll be happy with the jobs offered to your degree.
“Like me for example, my undergrad is in public relations but I want to go to law school… something completely different,” she says.
As for entrance exams, Colacicco says the MCAT is for medical school, the LSAT is for law school, the GMAT is for business schools, and the GRE is for all others.
“GRE is the umbrella of everything else,” she says. “You’re looking at speech therapy to psychology to art… the GRE is more of a general test.”
Colacicco also says graduate school can be a great opportunity to narrow your job search.