Graduate school: is it necessary?

Diego Luna | Business Editor | The USD Vista | @diegotothemoon

In today’s global minded society many students find themselves questioning the importance of graduate school and whether it’s necessary to attend. According to some students and professors at University of San Diego, the short answer is, it depends. However, many factors need to be taken into consideration before making the decision to commit to grad school.

Graduate school is simply a division of a university offering advanced programs beyond the bachelor’s degree. USD offers multidisciplinary graduate degrees across the eight schools on campus. Apart from 27 master’s degrees, USD offers three doctoral degrees, the JD (Juris Doctor), and five LLM (Masters of Law) degrees.

USD currently has 7,420 students and the grad programs represent 32 percent of the entire student body at a whopping 1,773 students.

Many students agree that the distinguishing factor of USD is its opportunity to cover many fields of studies at the graduate level. In USD’s graduate programs, award-winning faculty engage students through small class sizes, hands-on research, real-world global experiences, and knowledge.

However, it is important to know the options and resources available to you as well as all of the costs and benefits associated with this decision. USD’s Office of Graduate Admissions is a great resource to those seeking post-baccalaureate, master’s, PhD, or professional degrees.

The Office of Graduate Admissions is located in Serra Hall, Room 202. The office will provide you with information about graduate programs, prepare your completed application for the faculty review committee, guide you through the application process, and communicate the admissions decision to you.

In addition to the Office of Graduate Admissions, there is an annual graduate school fair. Career Services hosts this event to help potential grad students understand the applications, admissions requirements, and graduate programs from a variety of business, medical, and law schools.

This year’s grad fair was on Tuesday, Oct. 13. Many schools participated in the grad fair, schools from the east coast such as Columbia University and Boston College as well as schools from the west coast such as California Western School of Law. The schools provided colorful brochures for those students seeking a graduate level education.

Senior Irvin Corral is a behavioral neuroscience major at USD. Corral has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with an emphasis in applied mathematics, and he is currently pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in behavioral neuroscience. Irvin shared his thoughts on graduate school.

“I understand the importance of graduate school and all it offers,” Corral said. “As a returning student to USD, I’m aware of the importance of post-baccalaureate degree in my field of study. I think these [graduate] degrees are definitely worthy if you’re thinking of entering the sciences or engineering. Getting a doctorate degree is the maximum recognition as a professional, it adds a tremendous level of credibility.”

Many students’ concerns involve more than just the credibility of a graduate level degree. The concerns also revolve around the financial cost of attending graduate school, the opportunity cost, and the job security involved.

At times these decisions involve risks which come at an actual financial cost for many students. For some, it might mean temporarily giving up a paycheck, and for others the time invested is the bigger loss.

However, the general conclusion about graduate degrees is that they do improve salaries. In fact, Time Magazine listed some comparisons between the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and PhD.

According to Time Magazine, a person with a bachelor’s degree makes on average $50,000 a year, whereas a person with a master’s degree makes in between $79,000 and $97,000. Conversely, a PhD degree earns well above the $120,000 threshold.

While these salaries are only estimates they don’t reflect every situation but these numbers should be something to consider according to Time Magazine .

USD has one of the most expensive graduate level tuition costs in California. Tuition cost for a full-time student at USD is $48,860 and $35,840 for a part-time student, not including room and board. Whereas graduate level tuition for state schools in California range between $20,900 and $32,000 according to the CalState website.

However, for some students the financial costs do not outweigh the intangible rewards such as the acquired knowledge. Money is not the only motivator for students, there are those who seek to find their bliss through higher education.

Students such as Corral believe, the long-term commitment to grad school is worth the wait.

“Yeah, I’ve been at school longer than most would be comfortable with,” Corral said. “I’m o.k. with that because I have scholarships and I’ve been able to land a job at Scripps Hospital in Hillcrest. I’m able to help people and apply what I’ve learned in school, all while assisting those outside of school, such as the trauma center at my hospital.”

Many people have argued the importance of graduate school, others disagree.

CBS News doesn’t quite agree with the hype of a PhD or masters degree, some say the average student takes 8.2 years in addition to the four years of undergraduate work to slog through a PhD program and is 33 years old before earning that top diploma. According to the CBS article if a student has a loan it will take them an additional seven years to pay it off.

Stephen Ferruolo, PhD graduated magna cum laude from Wesleyan University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He is a member of the Order of the Coif and the dean for USD’s School of Law. In total Ferruolo has five college graduate degrees, one from Wesleyan, Oxford, two degrees from Princeton, and his JD from Stanford University.

Dr. Ferruolo touched on many topics such as the value of a liberal arts education, the importance of self-identity and how graduate school may or may not affect these outcomes.

“I think education and knowledge are always good things,” Ferruolo said,“A graduate level degree can be important but only if you have a sense of what you want to do, this ensures that you add value to your education as well as putting your education to good use. But, if you’re going to college just to get a college degree, it may not be worth it. It used to be that any law degree landed you a good job, but now college degrees require you to be practice ready, and not only in Law but in graduate school in general.”

Whatever your choice is, whether it’s attending graduate school, taking a break from your undergrad work, or joining the workforce, just know that resources are always there to help you on the adventure