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April 18, 2007


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I think that's the thing. In my career, field, and location an advanced degree does not do anything for you. Experience is far more preferred. You don't know how many grad students have come through and get pissy they don't get a bigger wage than the rest of us. We just roll our eyes, we knew better and didn't waste the money - LOL. My impression of Grad students is not good, but you know the few I have come across in my field had little actual experience and had their noses way up in the air. They just didn't last long, couldn't do the work. Expected to zoom straight to the top with no experience and to make a bigger wage for the same work. Doesn't happen in my field.

It is a weight of costs and benefits. & personal growth as well. I would like to go and get a Masters in tax eventually, but more for my own personal growth. The degree does afford a higher wage and I know I can get an excellent education for about $10k. With a $10k annual increase in pay with that degree, the benefits are clear. You just have to be careful, I don't see the point in shelling out big bucks for a career that won't pay off. Education is good, but not if you never recoup the original investment.

I agree with everything you said. Many fields are requiring advance degrees to even be considered for a job or at least to advance anywhere. I think a graduate degree is very important, if you are in a field that requires that, otherwise you won't make it too far unless you stay at the same 'company' for your whole life, but most people no longer do that. I am in a field that you need a graduate degree or decades of experience to get anywhere. Also, there are several ways to get graduate school paid for or almost paid for. Personally, my debt for 4 years of graduate school is about 25% of my undergraduate debt. For me I think the graduate degree is going to be one of the most important investments that I can make.

Teri, I also have to somewhat agree with you. I am in a program that is specifically made for people already working in the field. So we take classes and work, it's nice to directly applying what we learn. But, I do take classes with full-time students, who are not stuck-up like you describe, but oblivious to what it is like to work in the field. They have very high, idealist ideas and my guess is that when they get out in the real world they are going to be hit hard by reality.

In the career fielf it's a fine balance between experience and education. But for me the reality is that more and more places are requiring or preferring advanced degrees and experience, thankfully I have both.

I didn't go into debt to go to grad school. I paid for it myself and lived off of my savings for 3 years. I am in an entry-level position after receiving my MBA. There are LOTS of days when I feel like the guy on that FedEx commercial who says "I have an MBA, I don't do shipping." But the big difference is that I've changed careers. I make less than I used to, but I'm on a different track now (one that I believe will make me happier in the long run) and I choose to believe that it will eventually pay off.

Was it a mistake/am I mistaken? Only time will tell, but I don't think so.

I am near the end of a PhD program, and I think that grad school is only worth it if you know what kind of job you want, and you need a graduate degree to get that kind of job. Otherwise it is a waste of time and money.

The main reason is that when you go straight to work you start getting a paycheck much earlier. So at 22, say, you can start paying off debt, getting raises, and investing for retirement. When you go to grad school you postpone all that for several years, and replace it with a grueling period where you'll either break even or go into more debt.

For example, I'm in computer science. So my two choices were: get a software engineering job with a BS at 22, or go to grad school and get a research job around 29. If I got a job first I'd probably start with a salary of about 60k, which might be 70k or so at age 29 due to raises, and I would have had 7 years of that income with the opportunity to invest it. Instead I'll probably get a job with a salary of, say, 80k-90k at age 29; yes my income is higher, but I also missed out on 400k+ salary income as well as the opportunity to start investing in my twenties.

I don't regret my choice because I think I'll have a happier career for it. If you know you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a researcher, there's no choice; but I'm not convinced that grad school is a good investment for most people.

I got my MBA about 15 years ago at night while I was working. Back then companies would pay for advanced degrees without any commitments or strings. Nowadays most companies won't pay for advanced degrees unless you are on an executive track. The training did not magically change my life. It did give me more options and credibility when changing jobs. Almost all of the managers I've worked for since then have been intimidated by the degree.

The biggest difference I've noticed is the experience factor. Generally, I would argue that going straight to grad school from undergrad without working is less profitable then working for a few years and then either going back to school or ideally going at night and continuing to work. I did my MBA at night paid for by my employer. Many of my classmates were disappointed to find out that an MBA with no experience usually doesn't get much more then a undergrad.

I went to grad school for free. Actually, I was paid a stipend as well (small, but enough to live on). I'm a scientist and this is how the system works: Professors have research programs - they need to get grants and publish and they can do this only by getting a lot of lab work done - much more than they could ever do on their own. Big universities also need teaching assistants. At least when I went to grad school (late 80s) all of the grad students in the sciences had tuition forgiven + a stipend for either working for the university as a teaching assistant or a professor as a research assistant. You have to work for a professor anyway to get your PhD - how to do the lab work and research is what you are learning after all to earn the degree.

One can live quite comfortably as an industrial scientist. If you're willing to risk it and have a good idea there is also lots of opportunity in start ups. However, science is not something you go into for the money. You need to have a passion for discovery.

I have a masters degree in a pure science (read "the" pure science). This cost me an extra £4500 in debt.

I know that when I started work, I got an extra £1000 in salary for having an advanced degree. To put this in context, I got also got an extra £750 for agreeing to work in a large city with a slightly higher than average cost of living.

I also know that without the master's degree I would have found it much more difficult to get a good graduate job.

However, I didn't know any of this when I decided to do the additional degree. I chose to do it because I really wanted to study my subject further. This worked out for me primarily because the level of additional debt I took on was relatively small, and I was realistic, since I wasn't studying for the money, I wasn't annoyed that it didn't pay off that quickly in financial terms. It did pay off quickly in terms of enjoyment and fulfilment though, and that is a far more important outcome for me.

I recently graduated with a bachelors degree in economics. With the current economic climate, it has been hard not to get discouraged. (I think I was one of those kids with unreasonably high expectations described earlier). Anyway, I was thinking about going back to school and was wondering if anyone has any suggustions (recession proof majors, schools, reducing costs). Initially, I thought it would be a good idea to pay off my student loans before going back (I only have about $4,000 in debt), but I am now considering going straight to school.

Just thought I would see if you had any suggestions for all of recent college graduates. This is an excellent resource and I am glad that I stumbled upon it.

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