The average full-time tuition expense for the 1999-2000 fall semester for a private institution was $13,955, and the average public institution cost was $4,056 (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). But more and more adults are making the decision to earn graduate degrees each year. For the 2006-07 school year, the U.S. Department of Education projected that 417,000 students will earn a masters degree and 46,000 will earn a doctoral degree (U.S. Department of Education, 2000).
So, is graduate school for you? Individuals decide to enter graduate school for many reasons. These reasons vary from wanting to increase income, expanding professional responsibilities, or changing careers. Others simply are curious about new knowledge and exploring a field of study that is both fascinating and challenging.
Earning an advanced degree can lead to financial dividends for your future. The average salary in 2003 for a high school graduate was $27,915, for a bachelor's degree $51,206, and for an advanced degree $74,602 (US Census Bureau, 2005).
When is the best time to continue your post-baccalaureate education? Returning depends upon personal reasons, such as family responsibilities, financial resources, and career trajectories. There are seemingly endless reasons as to why you should enter graduate school. Whatever your current situation, the following questions may be helpful in making your decision.
- Do my career goals demand further education?
- Will earning an advanced degree open new career opportunities for me?
- What will another degree cost me in tuition, temporary loss of income, and loss of time with family, friends and hobbies?
There is not a typical graduate student. Every situation is unique, and one must think long and hard about the decision to earn an advanced degree. Graduate school will require a lot of hard work and dedication. Graduate school is challenging, as it should be, but the rewards and opportunities provided are endless. As Mark Twain stated, "the secret of getting ahead is getting started."
David Ruggeri is a PhD student at Saint Louis University.