Just because you tossed your cap at your undergraduate graduation ceremony doesn't mean your years in academia are over. Many students complete their bachelor's degree by around age 22. This leaves a lot of life to live — and time to further pursue exactly what you're passionate about.
Whether you love learning or want to take your academic accolades to the next level, grad school may be piquing your interest. In fact, you may have even had this nagging thought in the back of your mind recently: Should I go to grad school? Would this be the right choice for me?
You're far from alone in asking this question. But before you decide to head back to the classroom, the first step in the process is to educate yourself. Read on to get a lay of the land and learn some basics about what grad school may have to offer you.
Grad school admissions have been increasing since a post-recession slump, climbing since they bottomed out around 2010. This enrollment growth is more significant for certain demographics. Between 2004 and 2014, international students have accounted for two-thirds of the enrollment growth in America. The amount of international students entering the US to attend a graduate program grew 11 percent during that time period.
Certain graduate programs have been growing in popularity in recent years, especially those related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Large gains were seen in mathematics and computer science graduate programs, with a 21 percent growth rate between 2013 and 2014. Engineering and health sciences also grew at 10 and 6 percent respectively.
Overall, 16 percent of all American graduate students are enrolled in some type of STEM-related program, compared to more than half of international graduate students studying in the US. Other fields saw dips in enrollment. Arts and humanities graduate programs decreased four percent, while social and behavioral sciences decreased three percent between 2013 and 2014.
The United States is home to more female graduate students than male ones: 57 percent of all graduate students in the US are female. This translates to about 136 women enrolling in graduate school for every 100 men.
Some graduate programs in particular are more female-dominated, such as health sciences, which is 80 percent female. Both public administration and education have 76 percent female representation. It's also true that women are disproportionately underrepresented in other graduate programs, such as engineering, math and computer science, which are heavily male-dominated.
While women outweigh men in grad school enrollment, minorities continue to be underrepresented in grad school classrooms. Only about a quarter of US graduate students in the fall of 2014 were from racially or ethnically underrepresented populations. However, in recent years Hispanic and Latino enrollment has climbed six percent and black student enrollment has increased two percent.
The average graduate school tuition and fees add up to about $16,000 per year. With many graduate programs taking two years, that figure can quickly add up, especially if you're not earning a paycheck.
However, many grad programs are designed for working professionals to advance their careers, allowing for flexible night and weekend classes or online options. Some employers will reimburse for continued education and many programs offer teaching assistantships and on-campus employment in their financial aid.
Professionals who have earned a master's degree can expect to receive a higher salary than bachelor's degree holders. For young adults between the ages of 25 and 34, those with bachelor's degrees earned a median annual wage of $49,900, while their counterparts with advanced degrees earned $59,100.
The discrepancy adds up over a lifetime. Master's degree recipients make about $2,671,000 in lifetime earnings, compared to $2,268,000 for those with their bachelor's degree, according to a study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
It's also worth considering your employability if you go on to pursue a master's degree. For all the time, money and effort that go into a postgraduate degree, this is most likely a huge influencer in your decision.
Rest assured that job prospects tend to increase with education level. In the past year alone, individuals with a master's degree qualified for half a million more jobs than those with a bachelor's degree.* And the types of positions for which you'll qualify will likely include more opportunities for leading and managing.
Aside from increasing your earning potential and employment opportunities, going to grad school can provide you with a wealth of connections in your field, whether you pursue an MFA, an MBA or anything in between. From finding new jobs to building your client base to developing a span of connections across the country, your network of professors and classmates can prove invaluable throughout the span of your career.
When else in life can you delve as deeply into the subject matter of something you truly love the way you can in graduate school? Set the stage for a lifetime of learning and continue to sharpen your mind throughout a graduate program. You'll be exposed to exciting research opportunities and the prospect of pushing your mind to new levels of mastery.
Plus, if your undergraduate studies didn't quite set you up for the career you had in mind, going to grad school can serve as a springboard into a different field if your bachelor's degree didn't align with your current career goals.
With all this in mind, ask yourself again: Should I go to grad school?
Only you know can answer that question, but if your curiosity has the wheels turning in your mind, these facts about the demographics and outcomes of graduate programs should help inform your decision. If all signs seem to be pointing you towards a master's degree, what are you waiting for?
See what The College of St. Scholastica has to offer you in continuing your education. Get started by checking out our Graduate Studies information page to explore a variety of programs and flexible options.
*Burning-Glass.com (Analysis of 12,381,377 job postings from May 01, 2016 - Apr. 30, 2017)