The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Grad Notes: Is grad school worth it?

Kansas State graduate student breaks down the mental and financial costs of graduate school
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Libby Zuck

Graduate school has been the most interesting experience in my academic career. Countless pages of reading, lots of papers and classmates with decades of experience are intimidating, to say the least. As a Kansas State graduate student in political science, I want to give you my honest thoughts on my experience and whether a master’s is worth it.

The workload

Graduate classes are way more intense than undergrad classes; I’m talking hundreds of pages a week from an average of three seminars. You are expected to have a grasp of the material not just before class, but before you register, because it is literally impossible to read every work. The pressure can be debilitating, and the workload usually isn’t manageable for those working full-time. 

For my program, there aren’t any traditional classes. Instead, we gather in small groups, called seminars, to discuss a topic in depth for over two hours.

Participation is especially crucial in seminars; you may have a seminar for 15 weeks with only three people. I have one class this semester, in which we started with 19 students and now have 14. I haven’t seen two others for the past 10 weeks.

Financing

According to the Education Data Initiative, one master’s costs approximately $56,000 to $76,000, depending on the program, institution and time it takes to complete.

Most of this cost goes to tuition, just like a bachelor’s, but it’s not the only thing to consider. If you want cheap housing, that’s about $2,500 a semester, and don’t forget to budget for meals and spending money.

In a way, grad school doesn’t just teach you deeper concepts; it teaches you to do more with less. You’ll realize you don’t need much beyond the basics for the cost of living.

Too many credits

College education helps us look for information and find it quickly; we earn the degree to better ourselves and our ability to think academically.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 47% of the population holds some type of degree. Of these, only 14% have a graduate degree. This sounds like a reason to enter a graduate program, but that doesn’t make it all it’s cracked up to be.

According to EdSource, up to 72% of jobs will require a degree of some sort by 2031. Notice the phrase “some sort.” A master’s degree isn’t always necessary to have the career of your dreams. There are career opportunities with a bachelor’s, trade or technical degree. 

Academic strain

Some students attend graduate school as a stepping stone to a doctorate. From there, they publish, teach and strive for a chance at a tenured position.

But it’s not easy. Even one of my professors expressed this on the first day of class last fall.

According to Inside Higher Ed, 75% of all faculty are in an adjunct position, meaning they’re hired for a part-time or temporary basis.

It’s hard to get a tenured position at a university. If you want to be a teacher, it might be best to stick with a bachelor’s now and pursue a master’s later.

The deal

So, is grad school worth it? Well, that depends.

If you want to pursue a career in education, yes. Anything related to education like an archivist, historian or librarian is most definitely worth it for a passionate student, but it will be difficult.

Just know that no matter what path you choose to walk, each mile you trek is rewarding.

 

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