Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Grad School: Is the risk worth the reward?

Friday, December 9, 2022
Southeast Missouri State University winter commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau.
Southeast Arrow File

To go to graduate school, or to not go to graduate school? For many undergraduates at SEMO, this question is an important one, and one that requires much thought and planning. Grad school offers many benefits and is even required for some disciplines, but the investment might not be worth it for all students.

Vice provost and dean of Graduate Studies Doug Koch said deciding whether to attend graduate school is largely dependent on someone’s career goals and aspirations. Some professions, like a nurse practitioner, require a graduate degree, and some receive personal and career benefits from a graduate degree.

Doug Koch said there are many benefits of going to graduate school for any career path, including higher salaries and more opportunities to advance to higher positions; competitive advantages over someone with a bachelor’s degree; networking and personal development opportunities; the ability to shift career focus; and having more credibility with employers.

Doug Koch said the best way to determine if continuing one’s education is the best choice is to learn as much about graduate school options as possible.

“My recommendation would be to talk to a lot of people and ask a lot of questions about what is the benefit of a graduate degree in whatever discipline it is they’re planning on pursuing,” Doug Koch said. “What are the drawbacks? What is required? What preparation do I need to have to get into that graduate program?”

Doug Koch said good qualities for someone who is interested in graduate school are persistence, motivation and proactivity of considering different options and getting things done in order to succeed.

Gina Koch, director of Graduate Studies in Nursing, said although students don’t necessarily always have to have a goal with education, graduate school isn’t for everyone.

“I think that grad school is a wonderful thing. I think you really need to know what you’re doing with it before undertaking it,” Gina Koch said. “Grad school can be very expensive, and if you’re not financially independent already, it may be hard to pay back those student loans if there’s not a good-paying job on the end.”

Gina Koch said education doesn’t always provide students what they think it will, and there are many people making a high salary without a college education.

“I think that each step of education, you should pause, take stock of what your expectations were going in and what the outlook is from that point. Then, depending on your goals, that’s when you should take the next step,” Gina Koch said

National Guard member Connor Anderson, graduate assistant for the criminal justice, sociology and social work department, goes to graduate school for free because of these involvements. Anderson said he probably wouldn’t have gone to graduate school if he didn’t have information about the benefits of it.

Anderson said it’s a lot easier to attend graduate school if a student doesn’t have other personal or professional commitments.

“I think that just keeping your head down and getting through the program as early as you can before you make those commitments to family or moving locations [is beneficial],” Anderson said. “That’s a perfect time to do it.”

Anderson said it isn’t always easy for him to still be in school while his peers are moving away and starting families, but having a support system helps.

“You don’t need to have 100 friends; you can just have three,” Anderson said.