When I finished my last college application, I was overtaken with an immense feeling of relief that I was done with that process forever. I was certain that there were no more standardized tests, long personal statements or formal letters of recommendation in my future.
Now I’m swimming in graduate school applications and realizing how limited my post-college view was just four short years ago. Not only have my personal interests expanded in my time at Seton Hall, but when I look at the job market I see increased earning potential for those who hold more than one degree.
Last year as I sat in a class on feminism and queer theory, I found myself imagining learning more about topics specific to what we were discussing. I realized that with only one year to go I didn’t have a chance to add a women’s studies minor, but I knew that ignoring my interest in this topic wasn’t the right choice. I began looking into the idea of graduate school, and the more I looked into it and the opportunities it creates, the more I wondered why I hadn’t considered grad school sooner.
Of course, d e l a y i n g starting your career, investing more money and taking out more loans to further education can be daunting. In certain fields the return on investment seems more likely than others. According to data from the United States Census Bureau in 2012, lifetime earnings for people with
majors in business, physical and related science and social science are around $600,000 to $700,000 higher for those with a Master’s Degree.
People with majors in engineering, education, computers, mathematics, statistics, biological science, agricultural science and environmental science w i t h Master’s Degrees m a k e a b o u t $500,000 more in their lifetime than their counterparts with Bachelor’s Degrees. And lifetime earnings were between $300,000 and $400,000 more for people with Master’s Degrees in communications, liberal arts, history, literature, languages, psychology, engineering, and visual and performing arts.
These lifetime earning differences, particularly for majors that show $500,000 or more, illustrate a clear return on investment. For majors with lower earning differential projections, it’s crucial to factor in the cost of tuition, housing and other expenses as well as possible ramifications of delaying entering the workforce for one to two years.
More important for me than potential earning is the possibility to expand my learning on a topic that is important to me and becoming increasingly important to the rest of society. I want to learn the specifics of issues relevant to women and the LGBTQ+ community. From there I want to incorporate that knowledge into what kind of journalism I pursue so I can illustrate an accurate depiction of the struggles and triumphs within these communities and hopefully increase understanding for people who are outside of them.
As hard as it is to wade through graduate school applications, I know I’m making the right choice for me. Looking at this data I know that getting a Master of Arts should increase my earning potential, but that’s not what it’s all about. I genuinely want to learn more about this field. That desire to learn on top of my post-graduate potential is what makes me believe there is a real return on my hard-earned investment. Graduate school is not for everybody, and it took me a long time to even consider it, but it’s important to know exactly what your after-college options are and to consider them all.
Samantha Giedris is a senior journalism major from The Woodlands, Texas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.