Before you aggressively defend the postgraduate degree, the experience gained obtaining it or its usefulness, let me tell you why it’s not worth the bother.
I’m $27,000 in debt because I needed to take out student loans to pay for my college education that will supposedly help me land a job so that I can pay back the money I borrowed to get that undergraduate degree. Sure, that makes sense.
Why go back to school? I’d rack up thousands of dollars of additional debt and learn things I won’t ever apply in real life.
While grad school is necessary for some careers, 41 percent of students who graduated from college in 2011 and 2012 have jobs that don’t require a degree at all, according to a 2013 report by consulting firm Accenture.
Learning Is Doing
Although I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, I can tell you that marketing can’t be taught out of a book. The ways to successfully market a brand or product are constantly changing. The best way to learn is trial and error and hands-on experience outside of a classroom.
You won’t find your career path until you try a few things out. It’s your work experiences that will help you find the job you want and the one that fits you, not your understanding of business strategies like Porter’s Five Forces.
However, gaining that experience can be a catch-22. If you’ve searched and searched, and applied for hundreds of jobs, you know what I’m talking about.
You need experience to get experience.
The best way to acquire experience is by interning and volunteering with companies that interest you and your career aspirations. I learned the importance of social media in marketing and how to successfully utilize guerrilla marketing, not from any textbook, but by interning with two different companies.
I know interning is tough when funds are tight during college, but remember, the money will come later. It’s about the experience and people you meet along the way that counts most.
School might teach you the basics of different fields, but if you think you’re going to apply everything you learned in class to your real-world job, or if you think everything you do at work will have been taught in school, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Graduate Degree Can Push You into Debt
I will pay off my undergraduate student loans in less than eight years if I make the monthly minimum payments. Of course, I plan to pay much more than the minimum payment. In fact, I’m hoping to have my loans paid off in less than three years.
But, if I add on graduate school costs — which could double my undergraduate costs, depending on the school — it might take me much longer than three years to pay off those loans.
Friends and family sometimes say, “The job market is no good right now. Why don’t you stay in school for a few more years?” You want me to take out more student loans, accumulate more interest and have my children’s children pay off my debt? No, thank you.
What if the job market is worse after grad school?
That would put me in a deeper hole than the one I’m in now. I’d be at least $60,000 in debt and with a degree that dumps me in the pool of overqualified graduates. Or worse, I’ll end up in a position I hate, which often happens to recent grads.
Why go through all that schooling to end up in the same position you started in, if not worse?
If you’re really thinking about grad school, at least consider waiting a year or so. In the meantime, offer your time and help to a company that interests you. Shadow the head of the department who could potentially be your future boss.
Gain your experience, build your skills and learn the job you love. Then consider whether a few extra years of expensive lectures and group projects are worth adding to your debt.
My advice: Invest in networking and growing as a professional. It will be a lot less expensive in the long run.
Cecillia Barr is a graduate of the University of Central Florida. She blogs about her extensive knowledge on student loans in order to help others reduce their debt and live financially independent lives.