Is it worth going to grad school?

MusicEnthusiast

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jun 23, 2010
432
47
Los Angeles
So to summarize my situation here at school, I'm majoring in Atmospheric Sciences and minoring in Japanese. Currently a junior, I have short of 2 years before graduating, and have been looking into the possibility of grad school. My university has a very competitive graduate program and with my current grades, I can't bet on getting in here (I am considering leaving my state anyways).

After a little research, I have found that for meteorologists, having a masters degree over a bachelors could mean earning $30k more per year. However, I am thinking... how could $30k more happen so quickly if my field is about gaining experience and working your way up? So I am thinking that a masters will only raise my chances of landing an entry meteorologist position. However, I am very unsure about all this, hence I have come here to ask.

Considering grad school to be a lot more money and my job having to work up to earn more, what is my best bet? I am considering taking the GRE to have something to work with, at the very least.
 

puma1552

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Nov 20, 2008
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I graduated with dual degrees in chemical engineering and chemistry, and then was accepted to graduate school at UCSD/Columbia for a masters in international affairs (only 2 schools I applied for).

I didn't go.

It was the best decision of my life. I would've been an extra $70k in the hole for UCSD, or $140k in the hole for Columbia. And at the end of it I would've wound up with a job that paid the same or less than a starting chemical engineering position.

So it really depends. On one hand I'd like to say more education is always better, but the truth is universities are businesses, and you're the one paying for the education (usually). Thus, you have to do a cost:benefit analysis to see if it's really financially viable to go. For me, with my background, it simply wasn't, unfortunately.

However, if a company was footing the bill, it may be a different story. One potential problem you run into if you go straight to the masters program is being overqualified for entry level positions, but underqualified for masters level positions. It really is better to get experience before going to graduate school. It will help you really hone in on what you want to study, and you will be able to bring more to the table at grad school. Additionally, you'll get more out of grad school, and have an easier time getting in.

Whatever you do, don't go to grad school because you A) can't find a job, or B) don't know what else to do, or C) because going to school is what you are used to.
 

obeygiant

macrumors 601
Jan 14, 2002
4,037
3,868
totally cool
Not really, you'll be paying for 3 more years of education that won't make you more marketable for employers. Unless you just want to put off the professional world until the job market is better. Think of it in terms of a $500 a month student load payment after your done and if thats worth it to you.
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,185
1,615
5045 feet above sea level
Not really, you'll be paying for 3 more years of education that won't make you more marketable for employers. Unless you just want to put off the professional world until the job market is better. Think of it in terms of a $500 a month student load payment after your done and if thats worth it to you.
FWIW OP, I did my undergrad in Mechanical Engineering and worked in industry a few years and went back to grad school for Atmospheric Science.

My expectations of grad school were very different than what they truly are. I was worried about having to pay for school like I had to for undergrad....not so. Most programs in atmos science will offer you a graduate research assistantship. In my case, I get all my tuition paid for and a salary that amounts to about 26K a year. You can also get fellowships that can pay much more than that as well as be a teaching assistant to get some additional cash.

In other words...look into it.

I will say that atmospheric science as a discipline needs a grad degree, and in most cases a PhD to get a decent job as most of it is research based in terms of work. This is very unlike engineering where a BS can (and did) give you a very nice career.
 

wpotere

Guest
Oct 7, 2010
1,528
1
I'm getting ready to start my MBA after finishing my CS degree. I took the slow boat but I can say that it is totally worth it and I think that you should at least entertain it. It may not get you more up front, but it will get you more in the long run.
 

einmusiker

macrumors 68030
Apr 26, 2010
2,974
286
Location: Location: Location:
if your only motivation for grad school is potential income, don't do it. If you have a thirst for knowledge, are intellectually uninhibited and looking to do more with your life by all means write a masters degree.
 

SDub90

macrumors 6502a
Nov 9, 2009
685
3
Long Island
What do you want to do exactly?
What do you need to get there quickly?

Apply to schools and apply for jobs and see what your best options will be.

I graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and industrial engineering. My highest job offer was $72,000/yr and they would pay for my MBA (part time, would probably take more than 4 years). I ultimately opted to not take the job and go for the MBA full time (I had poor grades in undergrad from working 65+ hours a week during some semesters and didn't want work to affect my performance in school again). The reason why I chose to go to grad school over the job was so I have better options to move up in a company, even if it means having a lower starting salary and waiting 2 more years to start working (I doubt I'll get a starting offer like this one again).

Weigh your options and choose what is best to get you where you want to go. Again, take the tests, apply for schools, and apply for jobs. You're not making any commitments by doing these things, but you're limiting your options by not doing them.
 

Demosthenes X

macrumors 68000
Oct 21, 2008
1,954
4
Is Atmospheric Science an Engineering/Applied Science degree, or a Science degree? From what I've heard, going to grad school and getting a Masters in Applied Science isn't really worth it, as a Bachelor's in AppSci will get you a good starting salary as it is.

For a BSc, though, moving up to an MSc might be worthwhile...
 

puma1552

Suspended
Nov 20, 2008
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Weigh your options and choose what is best to get you where you want to go. Again, take the tests, apply for schools, and apply for jobs. You're not making any commitments by doing these things, but you're limiting your options by not doing them.
Agreed, it doesn't hurt to look into things and take the GRE--the scores are good for five years (though I'm not sure if that's five calendar years, five application years, etc.).

I applied for fall 2010 admission, and started researching schools in spring of '09. I narrowed it down to 4 schools by July/August, and began applications for the first two as soon as the admissions opened up that fall. Application deadlines for my program were in January/February, but I finished both my apps by early December (opted to only apply to 2 instead of 4, deep down I knew I wouldn't go anywhere other than UCSD or Columbia so why waste the time/money on the apps for the others?).

Just something to think about in terms of timelines...the key here is to start researching early...it takes a LOT of time to decide which programs are a good fit for you--one key piece of advice--make sure the program you are looking at fits your goals, or has a professor you can work with who does research in your area. This will increase your chances of admission. While I really wanted to apply to Haavaad just to apply to Haavaad if for nothing else, the truth was they didn't have anyone that did anything remotely close to what I wanted to do, so it would've been a waste of time to apply there anyway. There was nobody for me to work under, plain and simple...so don't just research the program, research the faculty within the program to find out what they study and where you can fit in.
 

ender land

macrumors 6502a
Oct 26, 2010
876
0
Whatever you do, don't go to grad school because you A) can't find a job, or B) don't know what else to do, or C) because going to school is what you are used to.
As someone currently in graduate school - this is AWESOME advice.
 

mobilehaathi

macrumors G3
Aug 19, 2008
9,354
6,296
The Anthropocene
If you are only interested in money, just go do an MBA like everyone else.

If you are actually interested in the science, go do a PhD.

This is just my biased advice...
 

Queen of Spades

macrumors 68030
May 9, 2008
2,637
126
The Iron Throne
Apply and see what kind of money you get. You can always decide to go/not go based on the financial packages you receive. The debt is generally not worth it strictly for job prospects, so it has to be a combination of wanting to further your education/expertise along with the possibility of higher pay.

If I hadn't gotten a full ride to grad school, there's no way I would have gone. Some of my classmates ended up with like 80k+ debt for a two year program. Undergrad debt was more than enough for me.
 

Eldiablojoe

macrumors 6502a
Dec 4, 2009
943
68
West Koast
In my grad school, you could tell instantly which were students with 1-5+ years of experience in the working world, and those that went straight into grad school from undergrad.

The undergrad students only wanted to know what they needed to read and what would be on the tests.

The working professional grad students were perfectly happy to "waste" an entire 4 hour class session discussing the cost-benefit analysis of workers' compensation policies on a company's fiscal bottom line.

It drove the straight-from-undergrads bat-crazy because they had no frame of reference or foundation for the practicalities of the discussion. The working professionals found a great use of the discussion.

You might consider working a couple of years before going back to grad school, FWIW.
 

miles01110

macrumors Core
Jul 24, 2006
19,261
31
The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
Most programs in atmos science will offer you a graduate research assistantship. In my case, I get all my tuition paid for and a salary that amounts to about 26K a year. You can also get fellowships that can pay much more than that as well as be a teaching assistant to get some additional cash.
For a Masters or a PhD? I've never heard of a standalone Masters program with subsidized tuition and a stipend.
 

acidfast7

macrumors 65816
Nov 22, 2008
1,437
5
EU
You need to answer two questions for us to provide advice:

1. What job/position do you want after school (i.e. what sector do you want to be employed within)?
2. Why do you want to pursue an advanced degree?

If you can't answer these questions in less than 5 seconds each, then we can't help.

Also, I won't encourage/discourage you from doing a PhD (a Masters' is a different beast all together and is often seen as failure in hard sciences and as valuable in Engineering.) However, remember that it's a degree in Philosophy and will be a life-changing experience (for better and worse).
 

ender land

macrumors 6502a
Oct 26, 2010
876
0
For a Masters or a PhD? I've never heard of a standalone Masters program with subsidized tuition and a stipend.
Mine does :)

Most MS students in research fields do. Now, LAS or MBA types of things where grants are less likely? Not so much.
 

ravenvii

macrumors 604
Mar 17, 2004
7,582
490
Melenkurion Skyweir
Also, I won't encourage/discourage you from doing a PhD (a Masters' is a different beast all together and is often seen as failure in hard sciences and as valuable in Engineering.) However, remember that it's a degree in Philosophy and will be a life-changing experience (for better and worse).
You sure? From what I've seen, anyone majoring in biology pretty much must get a MS for any hopes in getting a (decent) job.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
51,731
35,318
The Far Horizon
Apart from an added qualification which may or may not make you more attractive to employers (and that depends on the area you are studying and where you may hope to be eventually employed), too many people make the mistake of thinking of grad school solely as something that may enhance their earning capacity. There is a bit more to it than that.

My background is academic, and I have taught at two different universities for the best part of 20 years. My advice to students - when asked - has always been not to touch a postgrad degree unless you are actually interested in the subject itself. By "interested", I mean very interested, passionately interested.

You will have to live with this subject for years and lose yourself in it for years; just you, you and your motivation. Friends will be politely bored, and not only will faculty not chase you to complete deadlines, by the time you complete the degree (if you complete it) you may end up knowing more about that precise topic than they do, a bizarre inversion of the "natural" lie of the land in the world of the Ivory Tower and the "groves of academe".

There will be days you hate your subject, as you will have burrowed so deeply into it that you feel that the beginning is so far behind you as to be almost forgotten, while the end looms eternally ahead of you. Those are the days that you must prepare yourself for, the days when going forward is every bit as difficult as wishing to end it all.

The fact that your peers are out in the work place, working with others, earning a good wage, making money and apparently living (and loving) life, while you are buried in research, may drive you wild with frustration.

Those days, I have found that you either take a break of a week or two from your academic work, and breathe in the air of the outside world, or you can choose to bury yourself further in it, cutting yourself off the the outside world while you get on with your research.

Whatever about a Master's to enhance qualifications, and increase earnings, do not embark upon a Ph.D unless you can face the dark nights of the soul where it will seem pointless; if your fascination and interest allows you to lose yourself in your chosen topic - for what may seem to be years - because you feel you can add to the body of knowledge, then go for it.

Whatever you choose, good luck with it.
 

Huntn

macrumors demi-god
May 5, 2008
19,115
20,740
The Misty Mountains
Not really, you'll be paying for 3 more years of education that won't make you more marketable for employers. Unless you just want to put off the professional world until the job market is better. Think of it in terms of a $500 a month student load payment after your done and if thats worth it to you.
I never went to graduate school (did not need it for aviation), but I imagine if you can show an immediate increase in pay maybe. If not, maybe securing a job and working on the masters later, maybe even get your employer to pay for it could be the way to go. :)
 

acidfast7

macrumors 65816
Nov 22, 2008
1,437
5
EU
You sure? From what I've seen, anyone majoring in biology pretty much must get a MS for any hopes in getting a (decent) job.
In US, MS = failed comps from a PhD program
In EU, Diploma/Masters is something different.

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Dayum

I will say if I wasn't funded, there is no way I would be going to grad school lol
Everyone I know in the US doing a MS/PhD at a reasonable university received tuition + 20-30k/year salary (in 2007, when I finished.)
 

ender land

macrumors 6502a
Oct 26, 2010
876
0
Everyone I know in the US doing a MS/PhD at a reasonable university received tuition + 20-30k/year salary (in 2007, when I finished.)
I think this is roughly true.

I also think the difference (in industry at least) between PhD/MS salaries is nearly non-existant.
 
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