The Top 10 Downsides of Graduate School

1) You miss out on valuable real-world experience working your way up in an established career. Not only experience but also opportunity.

2) You miss out on earning a real income.

3) You spend the best part of your life, your 20’s (in most cases), in school. It’s also a huge time investment and takes a lot of patience.

4) You may delay marriage/relationships until you graduate.

5) Poor living conditions make it difficult to have an enjoyable and entertainment-filled lifestyle.

6) Your social life and social interactions may suffer since graduate programs (PhD) are spent mainly in isolation.

7) You will watch your friends move up in their career, get married, buy a house, and move on with their life. This will make you feel jealous. Your life will be put on hold.

8) Graduate students are prone to depression and anxiety. This can have long-lasting effects even upon graduation. The 50% that do not drop-out and stick it out till the end are not immune.

9) If you are the 50% that drops-out, you may live with regret (typically during the later stages of graduate school). Others find out early enough, get a real job, and live very fulfilling lives.

10) Education Inflation:
Just because you have a higher degree doesn’t guarantee you the better job (or even get you the job).  The catch-22 nowadays is that most jobs are suffering from “education inflation.” This means they require an advanced degree just for entry-level positions. In fact according the BLS, the number of jobs typically requiring a doctorate or professional/advanced degree is expected to grow by 20% between 2010 and 2020. The number requiring a Master’s degree for the same time period is expected to grow by 22%. In addition, in the U.S., institutions responding to the CGS/GRE Survey of Graduate Enrollment and Degrees reported awarding over 488,000 master’s degrees in 2008, compared with about 56,000 doctorates. So here’s the catch: You also need the job experience to go along with it. So it really isn’t an entry level position anymore and you are competing against those in the workforce who have the same advanced degree plus the real-world job experience. And in some cases, a PhD may overqualify you and make you more of a “liability.” This of course depends on the type of position you are pursuing.

But don’t fret. Find what you are passionate about and pursue it. If you don’t think grad school is right for you.. Don’t do it. Life is too short. Move on with your life.

My advice: Get any edge that you can. If you can get an internship during the summer (while in school) do it. Get your ‘foot in the door’ any possible way. Chances are that past experience or internship will come in handy later on down the road. It gives you real-life experience and will give you an edge over others who spent their whole life/time in academia. It will beef up your resume and make you look more well-rounded. Sound easier said than done? If you don’t have any internship leads.. Start networking. Use your network to land a position. Even if it is minimum wage, it is an invaluable experience.

Or.. Get a job right out of undergrad. Work for a few years. Get a feel for the job market and real-life work experience. Chances are you will move up the ladder, get promoted, and you may not even need to go get a Master’s or PhD. And if you’re really an asset.. They will pay for your education while you are working. That’s when an MBA makes perfect sense. Many people go in graduate school because they can’t find a job out of undergrad and it makes them seem more attractive to employers. Or to dodge the economic recession. I hate to say, this is the wrong reason to go into grad school. You have to go in knowing what to expect and only because you truly want to and are passionate about pursuing a specific field (like science). Otherwise you are in for a big surprise. So try to avoid the graduate school ‘saturation.’


Further Reading

Reasons Not to Get A PhD