By Esther Lamarre, Assistant Director, Graduate Student & Alumni Career Programs

The question of when is it time to consider graduate school is a popular topic for many graduating seniors and alumni. Often it is the result of a frustrating experience navigating a job search process that has yielded few leads and zero offers. Many alumni tend to question their bachelor’s level education and view an advanced degree as the only choice that will provide employment security.
It’s not.

Do NOT apply to graduate level programs if this is the reason you’re applying:

1. I want a guaranteed job.
While this reasoning makes perfect sense in an ideal world, today’s job market is not an ideal world. Therefore, a master’s degree (or even a PhD) will not guarantee you a job.  In fact, there are many people who change career paths after securing an advanced degree because they are unable to land a job in their field of choice.  Job security is not based on whether or not you have another degree. Job security includes many different variables such as job demand, the economy, your background and experiences, where you live (or want to live), etc. Make sure you are exploring all factors before assuming a graduate degree will provide a blanket safety net for a future job.

2. I can easily finish a program in 1-2 years.
Timing certainly plays a critical role when it comes to deciding whether or not a graduate degree is the right choice. However, just because you can easily completely a short 1-2 year program doesn’t necessarily mean you should – especially if you’re paying for it. It is more important to know how this degree will complement or enhance your current experiences, education, or future goals.  For instance, if you have a bachelor’s degree in sociology and your goal is to manage a nonprofit organization, how will a one year chemistry master’s degree help you to achieve that goal?  You may have the time (and even resources) to quickly complete a program but if does not align with your future goals, you are wasting time, energy, and money.

3. I have no idea what I want to do next. 
If you have no idea where your career is headed, a graduate program isn’t going to help you figure that out any faster.  In fact, you will likely waste time, energy, and money pursuing a degree you later realize you never wanted and/or needed.  Instead, it would be a better of use of your time to spend some time identifying your interests and passions and related careers.

4. I will be more marketable with a graduate degree.
Marketability comes from how you talk about your experiences and education.  In some instances, a recent graduate with a bachelor’s degree can be more marketable than a seasoned professional with an MBA because the recent graduate is better at showcasing related experiences and knows how to sell those experiences.  A graduate degree will not automatically make you marketable if you cannot articulate the connection for future employers. A graduate degree does not equal marketable.

5. I’m not ready to start paying back my student loans. 
Eventually everyone has to pay back student loans.  Piling on more debt simply because you want to hold on to that forbearance option is probably the worst financial decision ever. Just don’t do it. Being a lifelong student is great – when the financial responsibility will not eventually haunt you.