Get noticed in today’s job market
More people than ever are attending graduate school today, and because of this an undergraduate degree alone can sometimes fail to get you noticed alongside equally or more highly qualified candidates. With university education in contemporary society increasingly viewed as more of a rite of passage than a luxury, and 11% of the workforce (in the UK) now holding a graduate degree, bachelor degree holders are struggling to appeal to employers even at entry level in certain industries – especially when up against candidates with PhDs.
Get more than a qualification
Whereas much of the worth of an undergraduate degree is in the qualification itself, the most important reasons to go to grad school may be more for the professional skills you’ll gain, the personal development you’ll undergo and the valuable connections you’ll make with fellow graduate students, academics and industry experts. It’s frequently said that grad school is about much more than obtaining a few letters behind your name and a fancy piece of paper; it’s about developing yourself professionally so that you’re ready to enter the world of work. If you act smart in grad school, by the time you graduate you’ll have built yourself a professional landing mat of contacts and relationships, which will serve to keep you in the field and, ultimately, employed.
Pursue your interests in more depth
Although most undergraduate degrees allow students the opportunity to study modules and classes of personal interest, a graduate degree does this to a much greater extent. In order to get the most out of your graduate degree, you will be expected to conduct personal research alongside set study topics, in order to develop your thoughts and ideas regarding something that deeply interests you. Attending extracurricular activities and meetings, hearing from guest speakers and lecturers as well as full-time faculty members you find interesting, is what makes grad school so diverse and multidisciplinary. For students with passionate academic interests then, the answer to the question “why go to graduate school?” is obvious!
Contribute to the world’s knowledge
If you’re someone who wants to contribute to the world within any field, professionally or academically, you’re going to have to know your subject inside-out. For STEM subjects or other highly specialized fields, grad school helps to make that happen. Kylie Rochford, a graduate student at Case Western Reserve University, explains that this was one of her main reasons to go to grad school: “Undergraduate study gave me the opportunity to understand existing knowledge in my field. Graduate school gives me the opportunity to contribute to that knowledge.”
Grad school is different to undergraduate studies in a number of ways. One difference is that while undergraduate level student life is widely associated with socializing, sleeping late and cramming alone in the library, grad school is much more about connecting with people professionally – not just fellow graduate students but faculty members too. So while you may have locked yourself away in the darkest corner of the campus library during your years as an undergraduate, as a graduate degree student you’ll need to learn how to network like a pro by honing your ‘people skills’. If that sounds scary, remember that networking doesn’t have to be a dirty word; networking is your friend! In the professional world, networking is something many of us must do to get our feet in the door, and simply means you’ll be connecting with like-minded people within a professional context in order to collaborate, discuss and further your own knowledge, skills and professional circle. Not only will you be making professional connections, as a graduate student you’ll be making good friendships as well. The very nature of graduate school makes finding friends who are motivated, focused and mature just that little bit easier; your grad school friends could be the ones you end up sticking to for longest.