Deciding whether or not to pursue graduate studies? There are a lot of factors to consider.
Do you study at home or go abroad? Which supervisor is the right fit for your research interests? There is also a lot of misinformation out there about pursuing graduate studies that can further impact a student’s choice to continue their education.
We wanted to clear up a few of these misconceptions so we reached out to Colette Steer at Queen’s University. As the Recruitment and Events Manager for the School of Graduate Studies, she is primarily involved in promoting and creating an awareness of Queen’s programs and the graduate student experience to potential applicants.
Here’s what she had to say about these 3 common grad school misconceptions.
1) “You won’t get a job.”
Not true – when people think of a Masters or a PhD, they sometimes think that the only job is in academia. This is not the case. Many graduates go into many different kinds of jobs in both the public and private sectors. Statistics have shown that even though the number of PhD degrees granted in Canada has increased by 72% between 2002 and 2012, PhDs continue to fare well in the labour market with high employment and salaries.
Understand the transferable skills you develop during your graduate degree and learn how to articulate those skills for the job you are pursuing. For example, did you know graduate students are skilled communicators, problem solvers, critical thinkers, and analysts?
Look to see what professional development opportunities are available to you during your studies. For example, learning to disseminate your research to different audiences is important (orally or in written form). Speaking to people in your field is very different to speaking to the general public, the media and potential employers. The art of communication should never be underestimated and is an important attribute most employers are looking for.
It’s a great way to get the word out about your research. Keep an eye out for opportunities to speak at upcoming events like academic conferences, TEDx talks, and 3-minute thesis competitions.
2) “You’ll fall behind your peers.”
It is true that continuing higher education will mean that you will be entering the workforce a little later than if you didn’t go to grad school. However, the skills you develop will assist in your employability, help you secure a higher starting wage, and open more opportunities for you.
During grad school, use the opportunities given to you to network. Use your university’s alumni network, network at events, volunteer in the community to get to know people from a variety of backgrounds. Many programs have their own student groups so you can get involved with those. You could also volunteer for various community groups or within your school, or even help coordinate a graduate conference.
3) “It’s too expensive.”
Are there tuition and fees for grad school? Yes. But there is also funding available for all graduate research programs and some professional graduate programs. There are funding packages and there are external grants available for graduate research.
For example, at Queen’s, each research focused graduate student receives a funding package. This package is made up of Queen’s Graduate Awards, other departmental awards, and being a Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant. There are also bursaries available to some students.
Remember: at the end of the day, what matters the most is your perspective.
“Grad school is what you make of it,” says Colette. “If you manage your time, look at ways to network, find ways to promote your research, and take some time for yourself, it can be a wonderful experience and set you up for a future career.”