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Good reasons for going to grad school

Hopefully you've read our article "Bad reason to go to grad school" and did not share any of the red flags we mentioned in your own motivations to attend graduate school.

It's not that we're discouraging you from pursuing a graduate education—not at all—we just want to help you make the most informed decision about it that you can.

So, what are the strong reasons for going to grad school? According to Howard Greene's book, "Making It Into A Top Graduate School", seeking a graduate degree is a legitimate pursuit when:

A graduate degree is necessary for your desired professional field

Certain fields such as health care, law, teaching, and social work require an advanced degree (or in some cases a certification) in order for you to legally practice or to be recognized as a professional.

If you've already started doing some research into programs and schools for your target degree, here are some of our resources you can use for further research (please note: we are developing many more resources and will publish them soon!):

If you're not sure if a degree is necessary, here are a few possible next steps:

A graduate degree may improve your career

Advancing or furthering your ability to excel in your job or career is a smart reason for considering graduate education.

The new skills and knowledge you gain from your graduate education can improve your ability to do your best work and better position you for more opportunities for advancement in your career. While a graduate degree does not automatically lead to a promotion in title, salary, or responsibility, it can be very personally, if not also professionally, rewarding. Hopefully your investment in yourself and in your graduate education will eventually pay off in both intangible and tangible ways. Your graduate degree may just be a clincher in a negotiated pay raise!

On the other hand, a graduate degree is not the only option for professional development. Many institutions offer continuing education or certificate programs to meet the specific needs of working professionals who wish to supplement or complement their skill set in an affordable and flexible manner.

A graduate degree may increase your options and professional prospects

Going to grad school can help you gain more flexibility in the type of work you do currently, or prepare you for a bigger career transition, such as switching sectors, industries, or professions. Either way, a graduate education can teach you more advanced skills and in-depth knowledge of an area outside your specialty, or provide a solid foundation in a completely new area, thus broadening the opportunities available to you in the job market.

Besides the degree, grad school can be a good place to network with professionals from a range of fields. Seize the opportunity to not only learn from your professors, but also your classmates and peers—what are their areas of expertise, what trends do they foresee in their fields, and how can you collaborate? The education and connections you gain from grad school can open doors for you in the future.

A graduate degree serves to satisfy your intellectual curiosity and spark passion

Pursuing your intellectual interests or your passions through grad school may or may not also include practical and professional benefits. Grad school can provide you the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in your subject of interest, which you may otherwise find hard to do outside of academia. Regardless of the subject or field, as Erin Kane, M.S. Nonprofit Management, shared in an interview about her grad school experience, "graduate school gives you the space to be reflective and the time to carefully wade through information—two things that are growing scarce in our society."

That said, grad school is a costly way to pursue learning for learning's sake. Be sure to check out the following resources to figure out ways to leverage that degree.

  • Are you ready for the financial and lifestyle challenges that accompany graduate studies?

Conclusion and further resources

Having one or more of these reasons for getting a graduate degree is a good sign of your potential success in grad school. (To read about red flags in deciding to go to grad school, go here.)

Next, you should research and weigh the benefits and costs of pursuing an advanced degree to determine if you are indeed in a position to apply and if so, when. You should also research programs available to you.