Why choose grad school?

Tanya Marsh

Tanya Marsh

Once a student has earned a degree, decisions must be made. Throw the degree away and work at McDonalds, land a career in your field, or pursue a higher degree?

According to David Hilderbrand, the Dean of Graduate School, Research and Sponsored Programs at SDSU, there are a variety of reasons that students choose to pursue higher degrees.

“First of all, graduate school is required preparation by many careers. Secondly, salary levels are significantly higher for students with graduate degrees than they are for undergraduate.

Third, there is the personal satisfaction of an advanced education.”

A fourth reason Hilderbrand cited concerned graduate students not pursuing a degree but simply taking graduate courses. For example, he said “K through 12 teachers need coursework at the graduate level every five years.

They may not be pursuing a degree, but they come back to renew certification.”

Ryan Anderson, a first semester graduate student working toward a masters in Civil and Environmental Engineering, has his own reasons for choosing graduate school.

“There’s not a real easy answer; there’s about 10 different reasons,” he said. “The basic reason was I felt it would help me in attaining a job which I see myself doing.”

However, graduate school is not the choice for everyone. As Gabriela Chilom, a third year graduate student pursuing a doctorate in Chemistry, said, “This is a choice of each student, if he wants to do more academic research.”

Both Anderson and Chilom said graduate school is a big change from undergraduate work.

“I can’t compare with undergraduate here,” said Chilom, who completed her undergraduate in Europe, “but it’s definitely a difference. It’s more advanced classes and you have to think differently. You have to find the ways to focus the project. This is different than undergrad when you just follow the mind of your adviser or whoever is going to help you.”

Anderson agreed. “It’s harder because the workload on your specific area is greater, but because it is the area of interest, it’s more interesting.”

Expectations are higher, Chilom said. “In my opinion, you have to bring something new or something original [to the field] ? not just bring what the others did. This is not very easy, as it can appear at the beginning,” she said.

Finally, Chilom added that graduate school requires higher thinking skills.

“In graduate school you have to connect all you know. Answers are not always straightforward; you can’t just open a book and find the answers. You have to connect things.”