Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Graduate school might not be answer in recession

When the economy turns bad, not every industry suffers. In fact, some flourish under the circumstances.

For example, graduate schools have seen a spike in applications. A myriad of reasons are given for the increase, but many experts feel it’s a result of an uncertain economy and rising employer expectations.

It’s easy to understand why people would choose to return to school when times are tough. A graduate degree can help a person stand out among the crowded fields applying for a limited amount of jobs. It also can provide a safe harbor for a few years during the harshest days of economic downturn.

But is it always the wisest course of action to take?

It’s no secret graduate school can be expensive. It doesn’t help that the very nature of being a graduate student often means being forced to take low-paying jobs because of the demands of classes.

This means many students are forced to turn to student loans to help pay for their continued education.

In a perfect world, this isn’t a big deal, as a graduate degree generally leads to more income in the future. In a harsh economy, however, this newfound debt can cripple a person’s future.

Who can guarantee a person with a fresh master’s degree will be able to secure employment in their field — especially given the thousands of people being laid off across the nation? What happens when a person leaves their graduate school and suddenly finds themselves in tens of thousands of dollars in debts and with no income? Nobody knows how long the current economic strife will last, and there’s no way of knowing if things will be just as bad or worse when you finally graduate. Student loan companies don’t accept failure to secure employment as a valid reason for defaulting on loans.

Even if students aren’t burdened with debt, they should realize they might be pricing themselves out of a future position. A company could overlook a student with a master’s degree in favor of a new college graduate with a bachelor’s degree simply because the latter would be a lot cheaper to employ.

A hard economy means employers can be pickier, and don’t be surprised to see them go for the cheapest possible option.

Graduate students also should remember the years they spend going back to school are years they could have spent in the job force. Graduate school may be a less-stressful place than the job market during hard economic times, but it often doesn’t provide the same work experience that is often so valuable to potential employers.

Don’t think we’re saying nobody should go to graduate school. There are plenty of reasons for people to seek out a secondary degree. Many fields practically require higher-level degrees for employment.

The trick is for students to realize why they’re choosing to return to school. Simply going back because it’s the easier option may lead to the future crisis of crippling student loans and no job prospects.

Those looking at graduate school for the future need to stop and ask themselves one basic question before they take the plunge: Will this benefit my future employment options, or am I mortgaging my future?

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