The Futility of Grad School

This is a guest post by content publisher Antony Reilly.

In the years before most people didn’t have a college education in the US, having a master’s degree, law degree, MBA, or, the holiest of holies, the PhD was seen as demonstration of great intellect and potential. With these higher degrees, even in the humanities, you could likely find a job in academia or in a highly paid position within an organization, not even saying “do my homework” to someone in school at least once.

Unfortunately, this is not the case today. Gone are the days when the college-educated person was an anomaly and the PhD-educated person was as rare as the white elephant. Today, there are simply too many overeducated people with too little work experience who don’t realize what they are getting themselves into.

Since most gainfully employed people have an undergraduate degree, it is still important to have one in today’s job market. Most HR departments require all suitable candidates to have a college degree as the starting point of their candidacy. The same cannot be said for people with higher degrees. This is especially true with a PhD in the humanities or non-practical sciences. A person who has graduated college then went to a PhD program, or even got a master’s degree before the PhD program, will spend at least fourteen years pursuing higher education. When this person completes their PhD, they will be 32 years old. This 32-year-old has no practical job experience nor have they been building up their career throughout their twenties. If this person cannot find a job in the ever-shrinking job sphere of academia, they are worse off than a 22-year-old right out of college.

The reason for this is simple. A 27-year-old who has worked after college graduation, even if they have changed careers several times or had career lulls, has gained valuable experience that can be marketable to a potential employer. A person who has spent their entire lives being validated by grades and pursuing degrees has little value in the eyes of a potential boss. They have proved that they don’t have enough intellectual curiosity to pursue intellectual interests in their free time and instead have wasted years they could have been building their money-making potential. Yet it gets even worse. With all of the loans taken out to acquire that PhD, you start in a bigger financial hole than you would have if you just would have started working right out of college.

While law and business students may think that they’re able to luck out, the unfortunate truth is the opposite. Currently in the US, there are 11 lawyers for every person seeking legal advice. Unless you’re the next Clarence Darrow who graduated the top of Harvard Law, you’re probably going to have a difficult time getting a job. It’s exactly the same situation for MBA students. While they spent money getting that MBA, they could have founded their own business and gained valuable, applicable, experience even if the business would fail.

With all that said, if you still think getting an advanced degree would be a worthwhile endeavor, try to get into a one-year master’s program. Instead of spending two plus years getting that degree, you only spend one. You get your degree and start working. While staying in the comfort of academic encouragement is familiar and less terrifying than going out into the big bad world, it’s much better to try and get your break into your potential career sooner rather than later.

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