You may have seen articles lately related to the disproportionate amount of grad school debt and post-graduation salaries. In essence, skyrocketing tuition rates aren’t in sync with starting salaries in certain fields. These headline-grabbing articles may have caused some to question the feasibility of pursuing a graduate degree.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that starting salaries of lawyers have dropped significantly compared to the six-figure debt they are burdened with after law school. While the data comes from the Department of Education, it should be noted that many of those figures depend on the school attended and the type of legal career pursued. For example, some law students who graduated from George Washington University may go into public or civil service jobs which traditionally pay less.
Whatever profession you’re in or trying to break into, it’s important to research what that profession’s median income level is with an advanced degree and compare that with the tuition of the programs you’re interested in. If you want to become a social worker with a median salary of $56,750 then you probably wouldn’t want to choose a program that will put you $150,000 in debt.
But obtaining a graduate degree in most fields still produces a higher salary and lower unemployment rate than those with just a bachelor’s degree or less. Here are the main takeaways:
- Find out what your anticipated salary will be once you graduate with your advanced degree and what kind of potential growth there is down the road.
- Take into consideration the time it’ll take to get your graduate degree and how that will affect your immediate earnings. For example, it may not be feasible to work and go to school full time, so do the math for your personal situation. Can you go to school full time and work part time, or do you need to work full time and go to school part time (which will extend the length of time it takes to receive your degree)?
- Calculate the full tuition of the programs you’re considering including fees. Compare that to the amount you’re projecting you’ll make after graduation and beyond. That debt-to-income ratio should be equal or negative.
- Consider the reputation of the institution and program you’re considering. Some industries will pay more for prestige, others won’t. It’s important to determine if prestige is a factor you need to consider as you pursue an advanced degree in the hopes of advancing your career.