Grad school?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by TSE, May 22, 2015.

  1. TSE, May 22, 2015
    Last edited: May 22, 2015

    TSE macrumors 68030

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    #1
    Is grad school worth it?

    My dad seems to have a view that college is the new high school and grad school is what college meant 40-50 years ago. Basically, if you go to grad school, you have a better shot at landing a job and get paid more as everyone is going to college nowadays.

    I'm going to graduate this next coming year in industrial design, and my ultimate goal is to start my own design firm in the future, so I was thinking either continue with a masters in industrial design or a MBA so it can help me with opening my own business? Any other things I should be considering?

    What is your guys' opinions on graduate school? When is it worth it and when is it not?
     
  2. AustinIllini macrumors demi-god

    AustinIllini

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    #2
    It seems like today if you don't go in the STEM fields, grad school is the way to go. That being said, most engineering majors will not benefit as greatly from grad school (particularly a masters program) as other majors. Personally, I believe that has a lot to do with the difficulty of a BS in engineering.

    Short answer. Depends on your major. Engineering? Probably not. Industrial design? Not sure. MBA? Maybe. A lot of times it helps, but not a guarantee.
     
  3. A.Goldberg macrumors 68000

    A.Goldberg

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    #3
    I'm not knowledgable about industrial design to know the value of an advanced degree. With engineering, obtaining a PE does offer some benefits in terms of what you can and cannot do.

    I'd try to seek out people with the industrial design degree in question. Speak to them and see if they think the additional time and money spent on the education is worth it. If you want to continue your education because it interests you, then I encourage it.
     
  4. Don't panic macrumors 603

    Don't panic

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    #4
    yes.

    your dad is mostly right. in most situation a BS is the modern equivalent of high-school back then. you need it, but it is not enough.
    in many cases a masters or equivalent is sufficient, but a graduate degree is definitively going to help

    but as other said, it also does depend on the field. engineering might be an exception, especially if you come from a strong program, and computer science might be the same (not my field).
    and probably for artists/other creative typoes it won't make a difference
    but in sciences in general it is basically a must, if you are ambitious. BS-> tech, PhD->project leader

    of course if you think you will have your own company maybe an MBA is more appropriate.

    i can tell you this much, if you are in STEM, investors do like those little letters before/after your name
     
  5. dukebound85 macrumors P6

    dukebound85

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    #5
    I agree here.

    There is no difficulty finding a job with an engineering degree.

    I have a BS in mechanical engineering and a MS in atmospheric science. From my experience, it is much easier to get a job with the engineering background than the masters background
     
  6. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

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    #6
    Get some work experience and then decide if it's worth it, way too many people coming out of grad school with no work experience, especially MBAs.
     
  7. Scepticalscribe, May 23, 2015
    Last edited: May 23, 2015

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #7
    To the OP: Despite what some people say, there are a number of good reasons to want to and to wish to attend grad school.

    However, they mightn't be reasons that have any sort of relevance to how you wish to live your life.


    Reasons For:

    Reason No 1 to attend: You really love the subject matter, and love researching further into it, writing about it, and mastering it further. And, as an adjunct to Reason No 1, you tend to like studying anyway.

    Reason No 2: You may wish to teach the subject to adult students attending college at some stage, maybe not even as a full time career, but as something different, and something extra to challenge yourself with. Teaching - especially if it is not your sole means of income, is a very (personally & psychologically) rewarding activity.

    Reason No 3: The field you seek to work in at the desired level requires it, or has come to require it, given the inflation in qualifications observed in some areas in recent (recessionary) times.

    Reason No 4: It may well enhance your income & promotion prospects in your chosen field to have a relevant postgrad qualification.

    Reason No 5: Both money and time spent may be seen as an investment in your future.

    And then, there are reasons why one should not attend graduate school, especially in the US.


    Reasons Against:

    Reason No 1: You are sick of studying and want to work and make money.

    Reason No 2: This is something you work at, not something you live for. While you may wish to study some things, this is merely your means of earning your bread, your meal and bills ticket, not the abiding passion of your life.

    Reason No 3: It costs too much (Money). Money which you may have a better use for, and which you would prefer not to have to repay out of your earnings.

    Reason No 4: It costs too much time. And this time is time you will never get back.
     
  8. AlliFlowers Contributor

    AlliFlowers

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    #8
    Do some research into your field to see what difference it makes for you.

    For me, a masters was a $5,000 annual increase in salary. A friend in the same field in New Orleans got a $500 annual increase and didn't see the point in getting the degree.

    Degrees are very much tied to certain fields though.
     
  9. malman89 macrumors 68000

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    #9
    This is pretty much the grad school checklist:

    (1) Are you paying for it? If no, do whatever you want.

    (1b) Are you giving up a significant sum in earning potential (e.g. 2-3 years of full-time school vs. a significant full-time salary) to do it? If yes, big red flag. Dig deeper into the cost/benefit analysis.

    (2) What concrete career will this degree lead to? If you have no answer, stop thinking about grad school until you have one.

    (2b) Is an advanced degree even needed in your desired career/field?

    (3) Will this advanced degree lead to a concrete career with a meaningful pay increase? Giving up earning potential and/or taking on student debt for an insignificant raise really might not be worth it.

    ---

    I really disagree with your father's statement. Most people go to grad school because they have no idea what they want to do - law school and the never ending flavors of an MBA are two prime examples. We're definitely at the point of any college education (Associates/Bachelors/cert) is required for a decent standard of living, but definitely not to the point of an advanced degree, in general, just yet. Maybe some areas/fields, but not as a general rule. I also don't believe an advanced degree is something you can use the "follow your passion" excuse. I feel that applies to undergrad degrees/certs/trades, not graduate school

    I got a pretty pointless Bachelors, but fell into/weaseled my way into getting some accounting experience, then just wrapped up an Associates in Accounting and used the combination of experience + that piece of paper to land a $9k/year raise. That's more than I spent on my second degree. I might bump it to a Bachelors if I need more accounting/business credits to sit for the CPA; if not, I'll just skip it.
     
  10. dukebound85 macrumors P6

    dukebound85

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    #10
    I would also say DO NOT go because you have no idea what else to do. Many people just want to go straight from undergrad because real life scares them

    ----------

    You also need to evaluate the opportunity cost of not working
     
  11. oldhifi macrumors 6502a

    oldhifi

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    #11
    Stick with the Industrial Design, too many MBA out there
     
  12. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #12


    Indeed.

    However, they won't like grad school much unless they like both the idea and reality of study and research, and also have a deep and abiding interest in the field that they are studying....
     
  13. 63dot macrumors 603

    63dot

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    #13
    This is so true, but also to geographical locations. It's one thing to have, let's say an MFA in screenwriting and be in LA versus Nebraska. It's better to have an MBA and be in a large city than a small rural town of a thousand souls.
     
  14. puma1552 macrumors 601

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    #14
    Your dad is right in that a degree is just like a HS diploma nowadays, and should be considered the bare minimum.

    MBA? Was impressive on a resume 15 years ago, now you're just another business school dbag with a dime a dozen MBA. Might get you an interview if it's on top of some BA where you otherwise wouldn't.

    Law school? The fallacy of high salaries for BA holders that go off to law school when the reality is the vast majority of law school students stomach $100k-$150k in debt and come out of school getting a pretty crap job with crap pay and benefits. Those PDs aren't making much, and I know a girl from a top 20 school with a high GPA who came out making $35k with no benefits. $160k in the hole too. Plus the last thing the world needs is more lawyers, yuck. Top of your class at Harvard and well connected? Sure, $150k salary. But if that's not you, that's not your salary coming out of law school, either.

    Engineering BS? Don't waste your money on a masters. PhD? Arguably only really useful if you're going into academia. Most PhD holders I know in engineering are difficult to work with and have a pretty big superiority complex because they studied the hell out of some insignificant niche of the discipline that actually has zero relevance in their job; but their egos are terrible anyway.

    Opening your own design firm? Don't bother spending more money, you don't get rich by writin' checks.

    I'm a bit of an odd case as I hold dual degrees in chemical engineering and chemistry from a top 3 undergrad program whereas I applied for grad school in completely unrelated international affairs at Columbia and UCSD, both top 5 programs. Columbia wanted $140k for a masters, UCSD wanted $70k. As much as I would've loved the education and loved the material, I had to sit down and - sadly - do a real balls to the wall cost/benefit analysis to see if it was actually detrimental to my lifestyle and future to go six figures in the hole. The reality is college is a business, not simply a path to enlightenment like it used to be. As such, you have to plan accordingly and be realistic in what you are paying and how it affects your lifestyle and future. Nothing funny about taking so much debt you have to do an income based repayment plan for the next 20 years.

    I echo the sentiments of others - engineering/design degrees are some of the rare ones left that really require just a BS to be very successful. If you have a BA in something, there's no guarantee an MA in something is going to get you any further, but it might. An MBA is probably best for those holding a BA.
     
  15. TSE thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #15
    Through all the research and your guys' inputs, I think I am going to work for a two to five years, get some professional experience, and then go back to grad school for industrial design.
     
  16. bunnspecial macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

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    #16
    I started out getting a PhD in Chemistry, and ended up leaving with a master's degree. I'm still working in the department from which I graduated, and as of this fall will be a full-time(staff) employee with some adjunct teaching responsibilities.

    Graduate school in the "hard" sciences is a bit different from something like an MBA. Specifically, if you are receiving department support(in the form of a fellowship or a teaching stipend) the school owns your life. You will have classes to attend(although generally for the first two years only), teaching responsibilities, other non-course "milestones" that you need to meet(and pass) plus the fact that your PI/mentor/advisor is going to expect a minimum of 40 hours a week of research on top of all the above. The agreement with most departments that provide financial support is that you will not seek other employment, not that you would have time for it anyway.

    If you love your field and want to truly immerse yourself in it, there's nothing like graduate school. You will find yourself surrounded by the best people in your field and in many cases whatever resources you need are available for the asking(especially at large schools). Not only that, but you will make great friends who share your interests and(to not sound too patronizing) are on the same intellectual level as you(at least within your field).

    With that said, it's emotionally and physically, and physchologically taxing. No matter how much you love the field, burnout is very common. I can't begin to tell you how many of my co-workers found themselves on antidepressants or other physciatric drugs, and those that didn't often self-medicated through alcohol or other things. Being a life-long teetotaler, I found myself often left out at department gatherings(which were really just an excuse for most of the grad students to get drunk out of their minds on free alcohol), but I can certainly understand how grad school could drive one to drinking.

    I say all this not to discourage any prospective grad school attendee, but just to give somewhat of an account from a person who has recently "come out of the trenches" so to speak.
     
  17. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #17
    A very good, thoughtful, fair minded, balanced and well argued post, one which gives an equal airing to both plusses (and there are a great many) and minuses (and yes, they exist, this cannot be denied) of grad school.
     
  18. bunnspecial macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

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    #18
    I honestly wouldn't trade the experience for anything, but am not in a hurry to get back into either!

    A couple of other points-I spent most of high school and a lot of college feeling like I was the "smartest kid in the class" at least in many circumstances-especially when it came to the subjects that interested me(chemistry). I lived and breathed Chemistry in college, and still keep in regular touch with my undergrad professors-in fact I even still get calls occasionally about an apparatus that I set up 6 or 7 years ago asking how to use it!

    Going to graduate school was an extremely humbling experience-where I'd formerly been at the top of the class, I was suddenly surrounded by people who were both shared my passion and were at least as smart and in most cases smarter than I was. I was also very quickly made aware of how little I knew-and every path one goes down leads to even more things to know. Of course, this is a lot of the point of graduate school-you should find yourself at a "dead end" and it's your responsibility to find out more.

    The second thing is that it was the first time in my life that I'd been immersed in a truly diverse environment. I had never been completely shelted, but even at that most of the folks I'd known from other cultures were second or third generation Americans.

    I got to graduate school, and my WASP self(the dominant make up of both my high school and college) was surrounded by folks from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Germany, France, China, Australia, Ghana, Nigeria, Peru, Columbia, and I'm sure other countries I'm forgetting. Heck, even of the(few) White Americans there, most were Catholic, meaning that I almost felt like the token WASP in the department :) . In many cases, my relationships weren't just the typical casual work interactions-I was invited to(and attended) weddings of different cultures, celebrated birthdays(both for co-workers and their children), spent other time with them out of work, and spent extensive working with some of them(working on the same projects and either receiving or giving training) one on one. Yes, this is just a microcosm of culture and certainly isn't representative of the whole. At the same time, though, I was exposed to folks from different regions of India and China, and had many lessons in how varied the cultures of these huge countries can be(much like America). I can't say that all experiences were positive-there were a few folks from who I ended up genuinely disliking, although it was their own personality that did that. Out of 1.2 billion people in India, it's not surprising that I'd encounter one or two over here that I'd just have a personality clash with-much as I've had happen with Americans I've known.

    In turn, I got to share a little bit of what I know of America as a boy who's spent the majority of his life in Central Kentucky. I chauferred many around and acted as a tour guide to favorite recreation spots. I took many to shoot guns-an experience often not available in their home country. I often intentionally used American idioms with folks I knew well, specifically to give them the chance to learn things that books rarely teach.

    I've made many friends from other cultures, and many that I still stay in contact with despite the fact that they've moved on to the working world-sometimes across the country or around the world.

    Without traveling the world, I think that graduate school was one of the most "culturally immersive" experience I've had, and it was all done 60 miles from where I was born.
     
  19. placidity44 macrumors 6502

    placidity44

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    #19
    If you're looking to start your own business I personally wouldn't do it. I wouldn't go to grad school unless someone else was paying for me to go. I don't care what anyone says you learn a ton more by doing than going to school those extra years.
     
  20. 63dot macrumors 603

    63dot

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    #20
    So, so true! Great post.

    I didn't see international students in any large numbers until after undergrad. Grad school was a cultural eye opener.

    I was also used to being the smartest kid in class often being the token nerd Asian (but also lazy and not always scoring the best at times) but grad school kicked my butt. I found the average student in grad school to be smarter and more motivated than me.

    I didn't think that grad school was anything but a "step up" from undergrad but I was very, very wrong. My Korean friend who has all doctors, dentists, lawyers, and MBAs in his family told me that while he and his siblings found med school, law school, and MBA school easy because all you had to do was be a technician and memorize stuff, he said that any grad program with a thesis (unlike those three common ones) are really what's hard because you have to think and reason, and not just memorize.

    I thought he was full of it and figured he was so smart that med school and law school were hard but not any easier than a true master's with thesis or doctorate with dissertation. Weren't those thesis type papers just papers? And how is "researching" and writing an "original" piece of work so hard?

    If you think just because you are going to get a master's degree in a liberal arts major and only have to do a thesis and think it's easy, or just a step up from undergraduate school, think again.

    Your regular 3 page undergrad paper mid week will be 14 pages in grad school and a 10 page end of semester undergrad paper can be dozens of pages long in grad school. Reading selected chapters in undergrad will morph into reading the entire text, and others, in grad school but class will still list as three units. You have two hours of homework for each hour of class in undergrad but in grad school that's easily six hours for each hour of classwork in grad school.

    Too many young kids are scared of the world and don't want to enter the real working grind so they think they can spend a two to four year vacation in grad school opening up their mind and pulling off a thesis/dissertation of some sort.

    Grad school ain't no vacation. It will open up your mind whether you like it or not, and honestly there are those who consider the two years they spent in grad school as the most enjoyable and rewarding of their life.
     
  21. bunnspecial macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

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    #21
    All of the above are great points.

    At least in most science graduate programs, 9 hours is considered full time for a semester, while 12 undergrad hours is a "light" full time load.

    At my school-and I think this is pretty typical-a masters or PhD(either one) require 18 class credit hours. Many folks look at that and think "I can be done in two semesters and have a PhD in another year." Of course, it doesn't work that way. Most students end up 3 classes(9 hours their first semester) and then take one class a semester after that. Of course, once classes are out of the way, the full time research starts.

    And, yes, writing a thesis(or dissertation) is nothing at all like writing a paper for an undergrad class. Plus, not only are you writing for your thesis/dissertation, but most departments will expect you to publish something(or at least submit something for publication) before graduating. On my first paper, I went through 15 revisions with my adviser before submission, and then there's the peer review process that will often send you back into the lab to do more work. By the way, there's about 125 years of Chemistry literature out there, and you'd better be darn sure you cite everything that's even semi-related to your work. The "your manuscript has been accepted for publication" email was one of the happiest ones I received in my time in graduate school.

    As for the other "professional schools", I have a good friend(childhood friend who I reacquainted with in graduate school, as he was finishing up his undergrad degree in Chemistry when I started) who went to medical school and actually found it boring. As he said, it was all memorization and little critical thinking-in fact professors would get frustrated with him for asking questions. He'd often bring things back to the chemistry department that they had been taught in med school for laughs(one of the best ones was "you can't image inside the thorax with MRI because the air blocks the magnetic fields"). He ultimately decided to do MD-PhD.

    That's not to disrespect doctors, as I do have a tremendous amount of trust in them and respect for them. At the same time, however, I've seen doctors with excellent critical thinking skills and doctors who had very little-I tend to return to the former, and not to the latter.
     
  22. 63dot macrumors 603

    63dot

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    #22
    After the typical doctor and/or lawyer route, my Asian friend wanted to do something that he was not good at that could "kick" his butt. He got through college with good grades to please his parents, usually the main reason for college for most Asians, but grad school was for him since at this point he deserved it.

    He went for an MA in western philosophy, unlike what he learned in Korea and not anything that could call up his massive math and science skills. He had to translate a lot of work from German or French (which he had to learn on the fly) to English (also another language he had to learn on the fly) and then to Korean. From there, once he got the concepts down, however foreign they were to his culture, and to any 20th century person since he studied the classics, he had to write his papers. He did finish but it almost killed him. Besides philosophy he had to understand western history and politics which he studied on his own "extra" time.

    My uncle took a similar path. He was a whiz at math in Japan and science was also quite easy for him, at any level. So living once on this earth and taking his tuition seriously, he found that there was no point to graduate school unless he could do it in something that would challenge him to no end. He went for an MA in English literature without having the most basic command of reading English. To this day he can't speak English on any level which is the harder of the two for most Japanese, but he wanted to make graduate school the challenge of a lifetime.

    Anybody could study another subject, besides undergrad, and go to grad school to make "more" money, but for the smartest people I know it was about stretching themselves to the breaking point. High school and college was about getting ready for the workforce, but other than a doctor or lawyer or professor, a grad degree should be about bettering one's mind. For the vast majority of master's or higher levels, it should not be about further job training. Usually the job one has is job training and that often will not lead to stretching one's intellectual soul.

    Just like spirituality and sexuality, people may not be able to express it or its importance in life, and intellectual curiosity is similar in that respect. Grad students are most different than the undergrad in the way that they want more work and to be pushed. If somebody is in grad school and all they want to do it get out easily or quickly, then I question that they should even be there. It should be the most painful and pleasurable experience at the same time.

    I am not saying that instructors should be abusive or punitive, but a good instructor should take the student where they are at (which is already at a high level having got in) and push them to the next level. It's not a one size fits all ethic as found in K-12 or college, but an almost journeyman philosopher taking ques from a seasoned pro.
     
  23. 63dot macrumors 603

    63dot

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    #23
    It's probably been mentioned here that grad school shouldn't be a way to hide from the real world. It's far too difficult and expensive and honestly there are far better ways to spend two years and hide. :)

    Anyway, there's the ridiculous belief that one should go to grad school because a master's today is what a bachelor's was in the past and a bachelor's today was what a high school diploma was in the past. Really? When, how far back in the past?

    I am in my 50s and in my state college grads constituted around 22 percent of the adults when I finished in the early 1990s. If you add in junior college grads, another 7 percent totaling just 29 percent. So a whopping 71 percent had a high school diploma or less. But it was a long, long time ago like the 1930s where you can say the percentage of the population with high school diploma is the same percentage of of the population with a four year bachelor's as when I got out of college.

    And grad degrees were less than ten percent of the population in back when I was in. You have to go back to the 1960s to find 90 percent of the population lacking a bachelors degree.

    So unless you are talking about time in a geological sense moving very slowly, it's not fair to say bachelor's today is the same as high school diploma yesterday, or that master's today is the same as bachelor's yesterday.

    If great grandpa tells his great grandkids that college today= high school diploma in his time, then that would be about right.
     
  24. lowendlinux Contributor

    lowendlinux

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    #24
    If it's any consolation my wife went back to school during her maternity leave (3 years here) after finishing she went to work for the university teaching and took a 50% paycut. Education doesn't always lead to more money especially if it's involves a career change ;)
     
  25. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #25
    No, but it can lead to enhanced career opportunities, and greater personal (and professional - although not necessarily financial) satisfaction subsequently. You may be considered for positions that it might not have been possible to apply for otherwise, or, at the very least, you cannot be excluded if that is - of happens to be - the criterion on which they choose to recruit.
     

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