Grad school is NOT a requirement for many people. Heck, college is not a requirement. Sometimes if you know what you want from a career, a vocation, and life in general ( and you’re willing to take the road less travelled and get it), you don’t really need a formal education beyond high school. I will defend to the death that an education and a degree are not the same thing and many people usually get the latter, not the former.
I believe all this despite growing up with two professors as parents. Growing up, my parents would always say things like, “Degrees don’t make you smart or educated.” Currently, in my immediate family; two of my five siblings have completed their Master’s degrees and by next year, it’ll make three with me. And we’ll all be inclined to tell you that grad school isn’t for everyone, and it doesn’t need to be. One of my brothers, for example, is a fine artist. And unless he wants to teach, a graduate education is hardly going to benefit him tangibly. Of course, if he wants to go and get one, nobody in my family is going to discourage him. But if he doesn’t want to, no one is going to insist that obtaining a graduate degree is helpful for his vocation. Two of my brothers are in banking and finance, and I have the ultimate goal of, “teaching, speaking, and writing” in matters of public culture. It is likely that a graduate education would have benefited us in the field, which is why we pursued it.
Graduate school is helpful for a number of reasons. In this less than perfect economy, the truth is the more education you have, the more you are likely to earn, and you are also less likely to be unemployed. And I don’t write this as a matter of reasonable deduction; the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections backs this notion. Graduate school also obviously allows for more concentration in a particular field, which is necessary in certain occupations. For example, a person who studies engineering at the college level is very different from one who studies Petroleum Engineering in graduate school. And both of them will find out who is more valuable at an interview with the Shell Corporation. And what about non-STEM majors? Well, it still holds true. You can hold a college degree in Business Management with a concentration in Human Recourses. Or you can hold a graduate degree in Organization Psychology/Communication with a concentration in Training and Development. And between the two, only one of them will probably get a call back for an HR position. In fact, for many non-STEM majors, graduate education, all other things being equal, might be the only way to set them apart.
I am absolutely willing to acknowledge that graduate education doesn’t make anyone smarter or even more knowledgeable, per se. But in a world where credentials do matter, graduate education is not without its value. You can claim to know a lot about something and show enough experience that those claims can be considered valid. But the reality is the society we live in will also demand that you prove it. And while a college education (theoretically) will give you enough knowledge to show you can handle most occupations fairly well; a graduate education will show that you have expert knowledge in a particular interest or area of interest.
Grad school should be a well-thought out decision giving the financial investment often required. Grad school should ideally increase your earning potential. But at its best, graduate school widens your perspective of the world, even if it is only in a particular subject matter. Education is not only a means to an end; it is an end in and of itself. And while our society often measures the value of an education in what the individual will return in work productivity, the value of all education – including graduate education, ought to supersede this. At least I can honestly say that thus far, in my Master’s program, my education has broadened my perspective overall. It has made me feel much smaller in the world, but in a good way. It has made me want to contribute to my community – my local and global one – in meaningful ways, and given me some of the tools I will need to do just that. Graduate school isn’t for everyone but if you have the right perspective about education, something it can seldom ever be, is a waste of time.