Seven reasons why graduate school is outdated

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It used to be that the smart kids went to graduate school. But today, the workplace is different, and it might be that only the desperate kids go to graduate school. Today there are new rules, and new standards for success. And for most people, graduate school is the path to nowhere. Here are seven reasons why:

1. Graduate school is an extreme investment for a fluid workplace. If you are graduating from college today, you will change careers about five times over the course of your life. So going to graduate school for four years—investing maybe $80,000—is probably over-investing in one of those careers. If you stayed in one career for your whole life, the idea is more reasonable. But we don’t do that anymore, so graduate school needs to change before it is reasonable again.

2. Graduate school is no longer a ticket to play. It used to be that you couldn’t go into business without an MBA. But recently, the only reason you need an MBA is to climb a corporate ladder. And, as Paul Graham says, “corporate ladders are obsolete.” That’s because if you try to climb one, you are likely to lose your footing due to downsizing, layoffs, de-equitization, or lack of respect for your personal life. So imagine where you want to go, and notice all the people who got there already without having an MBA. Because you can do that, too, in a wide range of fields, including finance.

3. Graduate school requires you to know what will make you happy before you try it. But we are notoriously bad at knowing what will make us happy. The positive psychology movement has shown us that our brains are actually fine-tuned to trick us into thinking we know about our own happiness. And then we make mistakes. So the best route to happiness is one of trial and error. Otherwise, you could over-commit to a terrible path. For example, today most lawyers do not like being lawyers: more than 55% of members of the American Bar Association say they would not recommend getting a law degree today.

4. Graduate degrees shut doors rather than open them. You better be really certain you know what you’re going to do with that degree because you’re going to need to earn a lot of money to pay it back. Law school opens doors only to careers that pay enough to repay your loans. Likewise, your loan payments from an MBA program mean that you cannot have a scrappy start-up without starving. Medical school opens doors to careers with such bad work-life balance that the most popular specialty right now is ophthalmology because it has good hours.

5. If you don’t actually use your graduate degree, you look unemployable. Let’s say you spend years in graduate school (and maybe boatloads of money), but then you don’t work in that field. Instead, you start applying for jobs that are, at best, only tangentially related. What it looks like is that you are asking people to give you a job even though you didn’t really want to be doing that job. You wanted another job but you couldn’t get it. No employer likes to hire from the reject pile, and no employer wants to be second choice.

6. Graduate school is an extension of childhood. Thomas Benton, columnist at the Chronicle of Higher Education, says that some students are addicted to the immediate feedback and constant praise teachers give, but the work world doesn’t provide that. Also, kids know how to do what teachers assign. But they have little idea of how to create their own assignments—which is what adult life is, really. So Benton says students go back to school more for comfort than because they have a clear idea of what they want to do with their life.

7. Early adult life is best if you are lost. It used to be that you graduated from college and got on a path. The smart kids got themselves on a safe path fast. Today there are no more safe paths, there is only emerging adulthood, where you have to figure out who you are and where you fit, and the quarter-life crisis, which is a premature midlife crisis that comes when people try to skip over the being lost part of early adult life. Being lost is a great path for today’s graduates. And for most people, graduate school undermines that process with very little reward at the end.

Dan Ariely, economist at MIT, found that when people have a complicated choice to make—and there is a default choice—they pick the default nearly every time. So if your parents or friends went to graduate school, you are likely to do the same, not because it’s good for you personally, but because choosing the alternatives seem more difficult. But making exactly that kind of difficult choice is what your early adult life is all about. So don’t skip it.

198 replies
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  1. Jonathan Gladstone
    Jonathan Gladstone says:

    Selfish considerations aside, let’s be grateful to those who can and do make the long-term commitment to building knowledge and experience in careers that are not always fun. And let’s also consider that the path with the most short-term fun isn’t always the same as the past with the most long-term satisfaction and joy.

    If I wanted to live in a world of permanent dilettantes, I’d choose yours first because it’s all about me me me, now now now. Then I’d reconsider.

    In your world, the subject-matter experts – doctors, lawyers, engineers etc. – would have no more than five or maybe ten years of combined education and experience in any given field. Medical care would suck and buildings would fall down but it wouldn’t matter because we’d all change careers before being called to account.

    Or maybe you’re counting on the “suckers” who actually do choose a single career and stick with it to provide stability while the dilettantes flit about looking to take ever more and give ever less.

    Here’s an idea: let’s reward the people who make a commitment and stick with it even if the going isn’t always easy. Let’s pay more to the doctors, lawyers, engineers etc who are toughing it out.

    To be fair, I spent a total of eight years getting two separate undergrad degrees but I never went to grad school myself; I chose not to, twice, for reasons not entirely different from yours given. I’m on my second career now and may change again. So I’m somewhere in between – my first career lasted only 8 years (education included) and my second has lasted over 20 years so far and may or may not go on for another 20 or more.

  2. Jim Eiden
    Jim Eiden says:

    First of all, I think this point is relative. Bill Gates left Harvard to form Microsoft. So he doesn’t even have a degree. Many employers require degrees. That means Bill Gates would not qualify. Steve Jobs never graduated either. He would not be able to work for many companies.

    McKinsey Company is an exclusive consulting company that only hires from Ivy League schools. If you did not attend one of these schools, you have no chance at becoming consultant for McKinsey. So that means, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs would automatically be rejected from working there. No college degrees for either of them.


    What you fail to mention is that many companies are very rigid in their hiring requirements. Sometimes it gets silly. If you don’t have the exact requirements they are looking for you will be rejected even if you are Bill Gates. HR Dept’s don’t adapt or adopt and they don’t see the ability of people to change according to demands.

    If you don’t fit into the box HR is looking for, you do not even get looked at. It is like they are wearing horse blinders and if they are not looking right at you, you do not even get a chance. The only way for candidates to get firms to even look at them is to meet the exact crieria they are looking for so you can get into their lineo f view. This includes having the required degrees. No degree? Too bad, go do something else.

    HR is trained to say no, they are not trained to find a way to say yes. Make it easy for them to say no, and you are out.

  3. Lindsey
    Lindsey says:

    I usually agree with a great deal of your insights, Penelope, but there’s no way I can back you up on this one. I’m 25 years old and just finished my graduate program, and have been ecstatic to watch doors open for me one after another. My undergraduate degree in English (which, I should note, prepared me incredibly well for the rigors of graduate study) left me with a lot of pretentious ideas and absolutely no marketable skills. I spent about a year and a half “lost”, as you call it, floundering and directionless. I then started graduate school slowly, with just one class while I worked full-time so that I could feel it out. And from there, everything fell into place. As I grew into my education, I found what I wanted, and I watched opportunities open up to me even within my own workplace. I’ve since left that position for a fabulous career I didn’t even know existed until after I started graduate school. My experience is not singular – more than a few of my friends and peers have been thrilled with their graduate school experience.

    I think a major thing you neglect in your analysis is that education evolves in much the same way that the business world does. At least in my own experience, the faculty have been aware of the changing demands of the working world, and the curriculum has been adjusted to reflect those needs (direct evidence of this: your blog was required reading for an independent study I pursued last semester!). Students can now study in programs with broad appeal that take a practical approach. There exist programs that not only open professional doors but encourage independence, confidence and critical thinking – skills that anyone needs, in any profession.

  4. kristi
    kristi says:

    How timely for me… I will be speaking to an enrollment advisor this morning about enrolling in an MBA program.

    I am more excited than ever to be starting this journey, even after reading this depressing article.


    After 6 years of full-time classes to get my BA, while also working full-time, single-parenting 3 kids, and being an active member of the National Guard, I WAS PASSED OVER FOR SOMEONE WITH A MASTERS.

    Not more experience. Not more capable. Just that piece of paper and how it fit into the hiring policies.

    I knew from that day on, that I would return to school. It was only a matter of finding the time and money.

    Today is the day! My intended program is online and my employer will pay 75%.

    In my field, graduate school is still the ticket to play.

  5. Marla
    Marla says:

    GO Kristi!

    Johnathan Gladstone – I like the way you think. If those SOBs get my stomach lining, they should at least pay me more for the loss of it.

  6. Ian
    Ian says:

    Lindsey, great example of the value of Grad school or continuing education & how you find your way from being lost.
    I see this article as a good reminder that the value & reason for a Graduate degree has changed.
    Masters degree should be view differently than a BA. When you get out of a BA, it fine if you don’t know what you want to do. A MA or the others are targeted, so … target it.

    One of the things I want to do is go back for a MBA (at least for 1 year full-time)
    – A break from life (if I can budget it)
    – Do some of the stuff I should of done in BA
    – Build a better network & diverse
    – Maybe start a business
    – Get a different perspective, a specialization that I have little knowledge about (Finance)
    OR unify my multiple roles & specialization that I have work in.

    Before you get in:
    Differiate what you are guarantee to get & what you are dreaming you are going to get.
    What do you have to do in during to make that dream into a guarantee or should you quit before going into this dip? (Read/Google ‘The Dip’ & you will know what I mean)

    If you are in:
    What project/thesis is going to make you unique(valuable)? How to keep those friends after you are done? What companies do I want to work for & doing what (Do you have a list of 10 companies, not 1 or 2)?
    Find a Mentor, it could be a Prof or ask a prof to help you find one. (Bonus: if the mentor is working in one of your listed companies)

    People we don’t have agree with everything she saids,
    but she does provide us with a different perspective & pushes us to think.

  7. Ryan Stephens
    Ryan Stephens says:

    In many ways I can agree with you that sometimes people overvalue getting an advanced degree (particularly an MBA):

    That said, for some people it’s a great decision. As a communications studies major, english minor when I finished undergraduate I wasn’t going to get paid anything (and perhaps I still won’t), but getting a Masters in Marketing (that only takes 1.5 years to complete) has seemed to be the optimal decision for me.

    I get to learn something new, business skills, etc. and like someone said, the curriculum’s are changing and getting better (I know they are at my university), and the average salary of our program’s graduate the first year out is upwards of 60K. Is that a guarantee? Absolutely not, BUT perhaps the people that make the most noise about these advanced degrees not working are those that they DONT WORK for. Perhaps the people that have fell in line and are doing well haven’t felt the need to come back and vocalize that. Certainly, it’s a possibility.

  8. Tom
    Tom says:


    You are so spot on. It’s ironic that Penelope has nothing good to say about lawyering, but she’s currently relying on the advice of counsel in her bitter divorce saga (or should be).

    If you want to be an attorney (and some of us do enjoy the work), you have to have a JD to play in our sandbox. The issue isn’t whether the JD is worthwhile, it is whether it’s worthwhile to YOU!

    The key for young people contemplating a career in the law is to be realistic. Not everyone gets to be Atticus Finch, and justice is an abstract concept rarely achieved. For every stellar M&A deal done by a white shoe firm, there are thousands of ordinary meat and potatoes cases. Those are what you will more than likely be doing, especially if you don’t graduate in the top third of a top twenty law school. Paying work is often tedious and deadlines are stressful. But every so often the intellectual challenge of a case or the genuine appreciation of a client makes it worth the sacrifices.

    Just be a realist.

  9. adam
    adam says:

    I have to argue that at least in certain fields, at least mine anyway, grad school teaches vital skills. I may not use my applied math knowledge to do web application development, but I use the skills developed in grad school all the time (e.g., ability to problem solve).

  10. Phil
    Phil says:

    Who goes to grad school for 4 years? I think what people fail to realize is that a college degree is equivilant to what a high school diploma was 30 years ago. Now for many places you do need a graduate degree to be competitive. Obviously not every field requires one, but if your fields offers one and you feel it will benefit your overall career strategy, go for it. Getting one to just get one and avoid having to leave school to work is the mistake most people who get them and do nothing with it make. It all just depends on the relavence of having one and your desired field.

  11. Erik
    Erik says:

    I can hardly even get my foot in the door in my field without a Master’s degree. Sure, there are job opportunities for folks fresh out of undergrad, but they don’t pay much and you can’t count on any kind of upward mobility without that Master’s degree.

    I agree that going to graduate school just for the hell of it is probably not your best choice. You’re going to wind up deeper in debt with no plan on how to get out of it.

    But, to not get a degree because you think that you might change jobs in 5 years is rather odd thinking, as well. If I don’t get the degree because I’m afraid I won’t like the job in 5-6 years, but then I don’t get the job because I don’t have the degree… I’m doubting myself right into a cook job at McDonalds.

  12. Charles
    Charles says:

    There are also valuable experiential credentials such as the PMP and PHR that do not require a Masters Degree. Unfortunately careerists in these fields are often discouraged.

  13. Jill
    Jill says:

    10 years ago (yes I'm a little older) when I graduated from college, I thought about going to graduate school, but wasn't sure in what. I'm happy I waited. I'm now in my Master's program for counseling, something I know I would not have chosen 10 years ago and going into a field I enjoy. Plus I'm working for a company that is helping me pay for it. 10 years ago it would have been a lot easier for me, since I now have kids, but it will only take me 2 years to complete it. My kids think it is cool that I have homework too.

  14. Diane
    Diane says:

    A couple of points…

    1. Not EVERYONE changes careers five times. Some people will change five times. Some may change more. Others may have fewer changes. Of course, it depends on how you define a career change. If someone has done a job for 10 years, and then decides to become a professor in that same field, is that a career change? I’d probably say yes, it is. What if a person advances from design engineer (doing the detail work) to sales engineer – is that a career change, or part of a natural progression?

    2. Some professions require graduate degrees. Some people want to be in those professions. These people should get their graduate degrees.

    3. Not all grad students end up in debt. In engineering, tuition’s paid and the stipends are OK – you don’t get rich, but you don’t need to eat Ramen, either.

    Bottom line – there is no universal rule stating that you should or should not get a graduate degree, or when to get it. Everyone considering graduate school should ask him or herself, “Will a graduate degree get me to a goal I want to achieve? If so, is it the most effective way to get to that goal, considering all of the costs and the other options?” If yes – go for it. If no – then don’t.

  15. HWS
    HWS says:

    Interesting that you assume a model in which students go directly into a FT graduate program from their undergraduate days and pay for it themselves. Most of the graduate students I see are FT workers, often using an employee tuition benefit, to pursue programs that further their careers. Shifting that underlying assumption pretty much knocks out all of your arguments.

    Plus, since many of our graduate programs are in education, I would offer the counter argument that K-12 education is still an employment sector in which graduate coursework is promptly rewarded with additional remuneration in most school districts.

    However, #1 and #3 suggest an argument in favor of the current trend towards graduate certificates – smaller grouping of graduate courses with a narrower focus than entire degree, which can generally be rolled into a graduate degree if the student finds that it makes her happy and is useful in her career.

  16. Janette
    Janette says:

    I just wanted to point out one of the downfalls of a graduate degree. I met a teacher with a masters in her fifties who can not get a teaching job anywhere because she’s ‘too expensive’. The woman had to work as a substitute teacher and had to sell her house because no one would hire her permanently. There are just some situations like this where everyone is encouraged to get the higher degree, but then no one wants to pay someone what they are worth.

  17. jane
    jane says:

    Those are excellent reasons why graduate school should not be a default choice. But it is hardly outdated – there are lots of great reasons to do graduate work.

    For example, graduate school (or even undergraduate education) does not have to be an investment decision, one could choose to do it because it is fun and it is affordable. Early adult years is exactly when being in school is the most fun and the most affordable – health insurance is cheap, and there are few financial commitments.

    Also, some professions require a graduate degree. Even if around half JDs wish they did not go to law school, the other half is happy about their decision. And we do not know how many people who never became lawyers wish they did, and how much happier they would be had they gone to law school.

  18. Rob
    Rob says:

    You’ve made the mistake of conflating “grad school,” in general (e.g. MBA), with professional degrees. Unhappy as many lawyers and doctors are, the can’t practice without the credentials. In other words, it is not a matter of “climbing the corporate ladder.”

    But much about the economic analysis of investing in “grad school” is true. Of course, who is to know what they really want to do until they’ve done it?

    I am a lawyer and love my profession, the money, the work that I do, and frankly the unearned respect that comes with the territory (regardless of the b.s., people generally do respect lawyers even if they would never admit it). That’s cool.

    Although your point is well taken, please be careful not to paint with too braod a brush. You could discourage some who are truly called to a profession.

  19. Rob
    Rob says:

    Re-reading the post, I missed the usual point — what might make sense to those with experience is “outdated.” The tired mantra is really, really thin. Why can’t you seem to give it a break?

  20. Daniel Hoang
    Daniel Hoang says:

    This post isn’t a generalization of graduate school but rather an attack on MBA’s and JD’s. What about other graduate programs in say economics, history, humanities, political science. Graduate school isn’t about taking a step up on the corporate ladder. It’s taking a two year (if masters) pause in your life to refine and hone your thoughts and engage in discourse. Sure, you can spend two years in a library or starting reading a lot of books and watching lectures on youtube to save money. However, it’s the intense experience of surrounding yourself around a cohort of similar interests and expanding your mind.

  21. john
    john says:

    Janette makes a good point regarding a potential pitfall for those with advanced degrees trying to find work in certain fields – they might be deemed overqualified, or their degree may place them too high on the payscale for an entry-level position. For teachers though, there isn’t really an easy solution to this, because in most states teachers are required to get a master’s degree within a certain number of years in order to keep their job.

  22. Scott
    Scott says:

    Well considering that I had the opportunity to go to Graduate School for FREE, I couldn’t pass it up! So I have NO loan to pay back!!! And, no, my employer didn’t pay a dime! No Grant, etc!

    As to gettng a new/better job … My employer could care less! As a matter of fact my employer has made my job WORSE by giving me the crap work no one wants! Thus I am looking for a new job. But getting a new job in these poor economic times is hard – harder if you don’t have the right experience.

  23. Alora
    Alora says:

    Fabulous! I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who have graduate degrees (sometimes multiple) because it was easier than trying to figure out “what they wanted to be when they grow up” and fumble through the early days of sorting out a career direction. And, without fail, all of them have ended up feeling trapped and miserable in their choices (or, worse yet, end up radically and horribly under-employed in a different field entirely, and hate getting up and going to work every day because of it).

    The only people I’ve known who are happy with grad school (and who ultimately find some actual value in the amount of money they have to shell out for it) are those who’ve done a part-time graduate program once they are a decade or so into their career. By then they are more sure of what they want, more likely to pick a degree they have an actual use for, more committed to making it happen, and less likely to spend ludicrous amounts of money on an expensive degree frivolously.

  24. sifi
    sifi says:

    I hope you are writing a screenplay. You are a funny and vivid writer.
    I left a good grad program and felt bad for a long time for not finishing my paper. It’s moldering away in the garage somewhere. I lost a few years on the rungs but caught up in 4 years with my fellow-MS crowd.
    Nobody mentioned the sell jobs these grad programs are putting out! That is thing, as many others have said, you must look before you leap. Realize that grad schools, even the vaunted Ivys, are in their own way businesses selling a product.

  25. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Personally I felt four years of college was enough higher education to prepare me to enter the workforce. It was my intention to enter graduate school after some experience in the workplace. However other life experiences took priority over graduate school and I did not go back to school for a graduate degree. It was the #6 bullet in this post that resonated with me.

  26. Heather Carpenter
    Heather Carpenter says:

    My comment will most likely be lost in the hundreds of comments…but here it goes.

    I don’t think its an all or nothing thing. There are some graduate programs that do meet the 7 reasons Penelope mentions above, however there are other graduate programs that are awesome–many of which are attended by working professionals who learn from one another as much as they learn from the professor.

    So before we pass judgment on all graduate degree programs lets think about what it means if we don’t go to graduate school at all. I personally think that a Masters degree today is becoming like the Bachelors degree of yesterday…necessary for many jobs (not all, but many).

  27. Jim C.
    Jim C. says:

    Bill said it all. Graduate school will only be outmoded when we no longer need people in the professions.

    (I mean real professions: medicine, science, engineering, teaching, nursing, law, …)

  28. Wally Bock
    Wally Bock says:

    Nice post. While all the points make sense, the one that seems most powerful to me is “Graduate school requires you to know what will make you happy before you try it.” I’ve seen too many people go through intensive preparation for a chosen career (including grad school) only to find that they day-to-day work they’ve spent years preparing for is something they hate.

  29. maggie
    maggie says:

    Amen! When I graduated from college (a LONG time ago) I swore to myself that I’d never sit in a classroom again. I built a career (in spite of the BA in English and no grad degree), took 8 years off to be home with kids, and now have been rebuilding it for about 3.5 years. I’ve learned a ton, tried many different jobs–project manager, meeting planner, web content developer, writer–half the fun is getting in the door at a company then looking around and deciding which job looks like fun. Again, I’m not making a fortune, but then again, I make a decent amount and have no doubt that I’ll be making plenty within a few years. Not to mention no school loans to pay off.

    Oh–and my ex-husband who spent 10 years getting a PhD in statistics? Yes, he makes more than I do, but only because I was out of the job market for 8 years; I have no doubt that ultimately I will make way more than he will.

    As far as I’m concerned, social media is doing a number on the traditional ways of doing business so investing time and effort getting a business-related degree is a waste of time. By the time you finish the program, the workplace will have continued to morph and who knows how much of what you learned will already be obsolete. Maybe not so much for lawyers or number crunchers, but who knows?

  30. brooke
    brooke says:

    i disagree with 100% of this post, because my experiences contradict almost all of her points. i have an MNA (master’s of nonprofit administration) degree and i no longer work in the nonprofit field. i get nothing but positive comments about the fact that i even have a grad degree at all. no one really seems to care that i’m not using it (and i’d argue that i am using because i learned fundamentals of administration along the way that can be applied in almost any field). not to mention that a degree like an MBA is probably applicable to those 5 careers you will have in your life anyway. and also, what’s so bad about LEARNING? she doesn’t even mention that some people actually go to grad school to learn stuff! she can have her opinions about all of this, but the fact is that all things being equal if you’re competing w/ someone for a job and you have a grad degree and the other candidate doesn’t, you have the edge. i cringe at the idea that education is pointless.

  31. Judi McLaughlin
    Judi McLaughlin says:

    This assumes that everyone goes to grad school immediately after undergrad. I waited 10 years before I went back to grad school and managed to get a Masters in communications that significantly helped my career, enabling me to become a consultant, make my own hours, and essentially write my own ticket.

    I guess there are exceptions to every rule.

  32. Sidney
    Sidney says:

    Not sure who the above post is really for. Most entrepreneurs already don’t go to Grad School, yet, everyone who is a professional (Doctor, Lawyer, etc.) has to. Most upper management in the Public Sector also has to have an M.P.A. or MURP or M.S.W. People who changed careers like me needed it to enter a new field and make contacts.

    And there are others who go to Grad School to actually learn instead of just being career oriented.

    This group of people I listed are hardly “desperate”. Is your target for this post just people who feel insecure because they are not as learned as their competitors? And isn’t this post recycled from your October MBA post (which was more on point)?

  33. Sidney
    Sidney says:

    Oh, and approximately 67% of Forbes 500 CEO’s have some sort of advanced degree. Pity those poor desperate people raking in tens of millions of dollars.

  34. stillnorealjob
    stillnorealjob says:

    Now onto my 2nd grad program (first an MD, now back for a PhD)- i would agree with the above posts that the most useful advice would be for new college grads to _wait_. go out, work, and explore. i love what i am doing, but would never have known it at 21.

    maybe the post needs to be generalizing and somewhat controversial, just to get people to talk and think.

  35. ohreally?
    ohreally? says:

    Makes complete sense. Paul Graham has a Ph.D. His startup cofounders also managed to get Ph.D.s apparently. Besides the fact that he is successful, it seems people actually listen to him more carefully because he has some expertise in programming languages and such. The expertise may not require a Ph.D, but a Ph.D. (usually) implies expertise in something. His idea behind the “corporate ladder being obsolete” is tied to people doing startups, instead of, say, someone going to work as a software developer at some random company WITH/WITHOUT a graduate degree. I think he himself recommends grad school in some situations “Likewise, if your professors try to make you learn stuff that’s more advanced than you’ll need in a job, it may not just be because they’re academics, detached from the real world. They may be trying to make you lift weights with your brain.” ( Why use a source like that when you dont take the time to investigate more carefully? People who go to grad school usually learn to present things in a more balanced and less sensational way.. after checking to see if the sources really MEAN what they say. But wait, I suppose one first needs to go to grad school to get such training.

  36. George Justice
    George Justice says:

    You’re right that people shouldn’t go to graduate school just for the hell of it. But I think you’re wrong both about the practical issues in going/deciding to go and the benefits of graduate education. First of all, there are many opportunities to “try” before you “buy.” Most graduate schools offer post-baccalaureate opportunities. At the University of Missouri, for example, a college graduate can be “admitted” to the Graduate School in about a half hour using our online application and can sign up for courses in a range of disciplines. Up to 12 hours (four regular courses) can count for a degree program.

    There are also plenty of certificate programs and shorter ways of doing “graduate education” without committing yourself to four or five years for the PhD.

    Most people are glad they went to graduate school–and enrollments are increasing, rather than decreasing (which is what your article would seem to suggest should be happening).

    George Justice
    Associate Dean, Graduate School
    University of Missouri

  37. Todd Rhoad
    Todd Rhoad says:

    As one from the technical arena, graduate degrees in science keep the US competitive in a global market. Of course, if you visit a few graduate programs for science, you’ll find most Americans agree with your assessment since the programs are mostly populated with students from foreign countries. Time will tell us the value of those advanced degrees, especially if we become dependent upon other countries for advancements in science.

  38. Brian Johnson
    Brian Johnson says:

    As a hiring manager at a tech company, we’ve found it to be disadvantageous to hire people with Masters or PhD’s for two reasons: 1) They’ve shown more interest in thinking about the problem and perfecting the dissection of it than actually solving it, which wreaks of academia; 2) The salary expectations relative to tangible experience and working knowledge are not congruent. While these are generalizations, of course, when you have a bunch of candidates and limited time, you have to make some underlying assumptions to be efficient with your time. PhD’s, in particular, don’t seem to have any urgency when it comes to getting stuff done in a startup environment. A number of our best engineers don’t even have completed degrees at all. Education is the last thing we look for in terms of a candidate’s merit (and I could not possibly care less about where you went to school, by the way), but we may very well eliminate people with a decade of schooling for lack of practical skills.

    And for the dense commenters hammering on Penelope in defense of grad school for highly specified fields like advanced medicine, those of us with any logic and reasoning whatsoever already assume she’s not speaking to those types of people and degrees. They’re obviously relevant and beneficial. I only hope these limited-awareness commenters are not the people pursuing those degrees or we’re all in trouble.

  39. James
    James says:

    Wow. Medicine and Law are NOT graduate degrees. They are good degrees in many cases but are not graduate degrees, or even what Penelope alluded to.

    Science nonwithstanding (and a few arenas of engineering,) what PhD is worth anything?

    Yet we hear “the BA is the new high school diploma”. Crunch!

  40. Mark
    Mark says:

    @James – on what basis did you conclude that Penelope was not referring to law?

    Maybe read the post properly before valiantly jumping to her defence (I’ll give you a hint: paragraph 3) and you will see she makes her usual resentful (and WILDLY predictable) dig about going to law school.

  41. Sumayya
    Sumayya says:

    Penelope, I completely disagree. Graduate school should not be your next step because you dont know what else to do with yourself, but it is NOT an extension of childhood. Anyone who’s been through a good, tough, respected program will agree with me.

    I’m not doing medicine, law, or business, or science, but for the field I’m in a Masters (and sometimes a PhD) is still required for the jobs I’d eventually like to be doing. I’m going to have to seriously consider this, but I probably won’t get where I want to go with only a Bachelors.

    And I don’t think not using your degree makes you unemployable. If the workplace is as fluid as you say, then an employer would not deem you ‘unemployable’….

  42. James
    James says:

    @ Mark

    You are right. Doh. One can do far worse than law for graduate degrees, assuming you consider law school graduate school.

  43. john
    john says:

    When I read this almost identical article of yours about MBAs, I listened. When I read it about law school I became skeptical. Now that you are saying all graduate degrees are worthless, I am kinda of laughing.

    When I made the decision to get my masters, I was told by several not to bother. It took me 2.5 years part time and was paid for by my place of employment.

    After graduating, I looked for another job and quickly found one offering a 30k raise from my current salary. I went to my current employer and told them and they instantly matched it in order to keep me. I am in charge of several people and they are either my age or older. They all can’t believe it when they hear how old I am (31).

    In my case, my Masters made ALL the difference. Now I am just deciding what is next.

  44. Ellen Hart
    Ellen Hart says:

    I'm a believer that an education is never wasted. However, grad school is an investment of one's money and time. You're right about the fact that grad school doesn't guarantee job security or happiness.

  45. Jen Jacobs
    Jen Jacobs says:

    As a recruiter for a Fortune 500 company I cannot agree with you more! Graduate school is a big investment of time and money and with it comes an ego from the grad student that is often not justified from a recruiter's point of view. I see students with their MBA’s who have little or no real world experience and are expected their 1st job to be paying 6 figures. Not money well spent if you ask me, if after all of that, they find themselves in the same jobs that a undergrad with 2-3 years of experience would be qualified for. But I see students doing it all the time for fear that if they don't do it now, right after graduation from college, they never will.

  46. dustin
    dustin says:

    The recruiters of Fortune 500 companies would like to have it easy, they don’t want to deal with motivated and demanding candidates. It’s in their interest to keep attrition and salaries to the low end.

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