My Thoughts on a Graduate Degree

I just read an article from 20SomethingFinance and really wanted to respond back. As I was typing up my response, my comment started getting too long, so I decided to create a blog post instead. The topic is about whether graduate degrees are worth the money.

From the recruiting and hiring perspective, here is how the employer perceives graduate education. 

  • Specialized degrees (like PhDs) will narrow you down, and sometimes will work in your disadvantage. Most graduate degrees (minus law and medicine) will lead you to a very general path, where you'll find your coworkers probably don't have a grad degree. I used to hire for Google, and whenever candidates coming from elite universities like Stanford, Berkeley, or MIT couldn't find job within the company, it was discouraging. Imagine spending 7 years of intensive academics/research and not being able to find a fit at your dream company. That being said, when you specialize and want to work in industry (versus in research/academia), be prepared to work on something that's outside of your dissertation. The lucky ones may find something within their realm of research, but that's typically a minority (I'm just setting expectations here).
  • Having a graduate degree on your resume does not necessarily mean more money. A graduate degree without the right experience means almost nothing. If you have a masters, but have no internships or work experience, you are just as entry level as someone with a Bachelors. 
  • You can't bank on a graduate education to open up doors for you.  Recruiters and employers aren't necessarily going to jump to hire you simply because you have a masters. 
  • You don't need to go to business school to learn to start a business. If you want to start a business, the best way to learn is to just do it.

Alright, so it sounds like I just went on a rant of why going back to school is a bad idea. If it's such a bad idea, then why am I going back to school? Why am I willing to invest 140K (sigh, I know) in getting an MBA? 

Graduate school is a huge investment. For me personally, I know that if I'm going to spend THAT much money, then I'll need to miiiiiiiilk it as much as I can. Meaning, I better utilize all the resources that Duke will give me to the absolutely core. I'm willing to make this financial investment for a few reasons: grad school is going to give me a whole new level of intellectual capital that no one can take away from me. I might be able to self study basic business concepts on my own (which would forever), but in school, my learning curve is exponentially accelerated.  More importantly, you go to graduate school for the social capital and experience. A graduate program allows you to diversify your network and perspective, along with give you access to people of the same intellectual and socioeconomic status. Bigger networks means access to more opportunity (but of course you'll still need to put in the work). 

Overall, my advice to those deciding whether or not further their education is to really understand why they want the degree, and what they want to with it afterwards. Are you interested in getting a masters in say, history, because you just really love the subject, or because you want to make a life long career with that knowledge? Can you get your "dream job" without having that degree? Talk with people who are older and more experienced who have your dream job to get their perspective. Don't go to grad school because you want to make your parents happy, or because you think it's "the right thing to do." Do it because you absolutely know and believe that having that higher degree will lead you to the path you want.