Do You Need To Go To Grad School?

do you need to go to grad school- Jessica LawlorSince I graduated from college in 2010, I’ve found it’s become common (perhaps even trendy) among my peers to say, “I’m applying to grad school” or “I’m thinking of going back and getting my MBA.”

For a little while, I even caught on to the hype and caught myself telling people of my plans to get my MBA. (Hint: there is absolutely no plan to go back to school and get my MBA…at least right now).

It sounds fancy. Smart. People who go to grad school must be go-getters. Overachievers.

But…is it really necessary? Do you NEED to go to grad school?

Disclaimer: The points I’m about to make in this post are my personal opinions, not backed up by stats (unless noted) and apply to those who are self-made entrepreneurs, creatives or work in the fields of public relations and communications. I totally get that a higher degree is necessary in some career fields, but I’ve found that it’s really not in my chosen career path.

I was inspired to think a bit harder about this question when my friend and fellow Philly entrepreneur Melissa Alam posed a similar question on her Facebook page.

She asked:

“Grad school- yay or nay? Is it worth it if I want to continue my career as an entrepreneur?”

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE to learn. I absolutely loved school! I thrived in an environment where I was constantly learning, studying and even taking tests and writing papers. I was one of those Type A, competitive, overachievers in high school and college.

But I don’t think grad school is necessary. Here’s why.

1. I’m already earning extra income monthly doing exactly what I would plan to do after grad school. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been steadily building my freelance writing business, blog and public speaking, in addition to holding a full-time job in public relations. I have regular freelance clients and bring in $1,000+ extra income monthly through these efforts. None of my small business/startup clients have ever asked about my educational background, let alone asked or required that I have a higher degree. Instead, they’ve read my blog, checked out my portfolio and know that I can do what I say I can do. The business I’m building right now is exactly the business I would likely build upon getting a masters degree. If I’m already doing it now with success, why take my focus away from that for a piece of paper? Also, according to a study being conducted by Reputation.com, newer grads with masters degrees make an average of $2,000 more per year than their bachelor degree counterparts. I don’t know about you, but that bump in salary won’t make much of a difference in the long run, especially when you already might be making way more than that building a side business.

2. It likely wouldn’t help advance my career much. I get it. Having an advanced degree is necessary in many fields. But in PR/communications? I really don’t think so. In all the jobs I’ve ever applied for in the field or job listings I’ve looked at recently, I’ve never seen a request for a higher degree. While I absolutely loved my PR education at Temple University, let’s be honest: most of what I learned, I learned in hands-on situations through PRSSA, PRowl PR (Temple’s student-run PR firm), internships and my two post-grad jobs. In college, I learned a lot about history and theory. I learned how to think differently, strategically and creatively. But those things I do every day at work that contribute to the bottom line? I learned those on the job. If anything, I might consider getting an APR (accreditation in PR) before getting an MBA or a masters degree in communications. Within my field, I think those letters hold more credibility than a masters degree.

3. I’d rather spend that time/money growing my skills/business right now, rather than 2-4 years from now. There is such a demand out there right now for ambitious writers, communicators and marketers. If you want to earn extra income or start your own business, it’s very do-able. If I were to put my business on hold right now to focus on grad school (because let’s be real, I’m not Superwoman. I don’t think I could manage a full-time job, side business, blog AND grad school), depending on how many years grad school took to complete, I could lose a potential $25K-$35K. Not to mention, I’d be putting out WAY more money than that to go to grad school. WHAT? When you look at the financials, why on earth would I do that? The PR/social media/marketing world is also rapidly evolving/changing every day- the best way to stay ahead of the curve is to stay in the trenches. I’d rather spend my time learning and doing right now, rather than waiting until I have a fancy degree.

Like I mentioned above, I LOVE learning. I know that I will be a life-long learner and will always seek out opportunities to expand my knowledge.

Here are some other ways you can continue to educate yourself and advance professionally/personally without going to grad school:

  • Attend a conference in a topic you’re interested in. There are conferences out there for every single topic- find them!
  • Join a meetup group around an area of interest.
  • Look to social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter to find experts in your field and those you may want to connect with.
  • Seek out bootcamps, seminars or other online/offline programming around the topics that excite you.
  • Set a goal to schedule monthly coffee meetings with people you admire/want to get to know.
  • Read blogs.
  • Read books.
  • Listen to podcasts.
  • Start your own business. The quickest way to learn is to dive right in and figure things out as you go.

Weigh in! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you gone to grad school? Thinking about it? Do you think it’s necessary?

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