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Graduate School: Is It for You?

Students choose to continue on to graduate school for many reasons. A graduate degree is required for most positions in academe, as well as upper level positions in industry. In most cases, a graduate degree offers you a chance to work on your own research project within a faculty laboratory and gain valuable experience. In addition, you can earn up to 50 percent more than your peers with a bachelor's degree.

Master's Degree

A master's degree can offer employees a chance to rise above a technician position or to enter at a higher pay level. Many people with a masters enter industry, or obtain a biotech sales position.

Some feel that if you are interested in a master's degree, you should pursue a program which only offers the master's. Universities which offer a master's only program, are more interested in the development of the master's program and educating their master's students. These programs are well respected in industry.


A Ph.D. or doctorate degree is required for most management or upper level positions in industry or faculty positions in academe. Ph.D.'s are also finding work in government policy, law firms, consulting firms, and sales or marketing.

Students pursuing a doctorate should be sure that they are in this for the long haul. Science should be the love of your life. The reason is that most Ph.D. students must also complete a one or two year post-doctoral position after four to seven years of graduate school. This should be the only thing you want to do. In addition, to working long days and weeks, you will be making much less money than your employed peers. The payoffs are well worth the efforts, but be sure this is for you.

Deciding to Attend

One way to see if research or graduate school is for you, is to do undergraduate research. If you work on a project for a month and it fails, do you want to give up or try something new. You can also see which areas you are interested in and see what graduate students actually do.

In addition to graduate schools in a science area, consider environmental graduate school, law school, or business school. These options are particularly interesting to students who want an advanced degree, but are not interested in being in a laboratory all day.