Why I Am Not in Graduate School

This question has come up a lot in emails lately.  People check out my story and notice that I started graduate school and ask me any variation of the question of why not just go back to school.  So, here is why I am not currently pursuing a graduate degree:

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

It’s truly that simple.  I actually had planned to go to graduate school right after college and deferred my acceptance to take a job that I really wanted.  It was a good thing that I did that because the job gave me real-life experience in the field that made me realized that pursuing museum studies on a graduate level might not be what I wanted to do.  I switched gears and while I enjoyed the graduate classes I took towards a master’s in history, it wasn’t enough.  The program was grooming me for a doctorate and a life as a college professor – a noble career path but ill-suited for me.  So I stopped and I haven’t gone back since.

I have nothing against graduate school.  My aforementioned roommate is in graduate school.  Most of my closest friends are in various stages of the graduate school cycle – applying, attending, trying desperately to finish, or considering going back after a few years of professional life.  But for me, it just isn’t the right time.  As I’ve talked about before, I have no idea what my passion is – how can I possibly pick a graduate program?

Look, I love school.  I am a test-taking, multi-chapter-reading, note-transcribing fool.  Anyone who knew me as an undergraduate knows that I love being in class, being inspired, and being challenged.  I’m just not sure if I’m ready to make the leap to the next academic level without knowing what the step means.

What do you think, dear readers?  How many of you are in graduate school?  Are you happy with your decision to go?  What made you decide on your current program?  Leave it in the comments or drop us an email at postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dotcom]

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12 thoughts on “Why I Am Not in Graduate School

  1. I actually applied to and planned on attending grad school this fall. I got into all the programs I applied to, but didn’t land an assistantship that could support me. With a ton of student loans already, I wasn’t interested in getting into more debt. I was crushed at first, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise.

    I realized after being notified I was being let go from my current job for even considering to leave for school, that I don’t just dislike my job, I also don’t enjoy the I’m field in. So to go to graduate school and invest all that time in something I feel ho-hum about would be crazy!

    In your case, I competely support not pursuing graduate school if you’re not truly passionate about something. You’ll find your passion one day, and it may be something that doesn’t even involve grad school!

    • You bring up a very important point regarding the way employers feel about graduate school. I have had several people get in touch with me and share similar experiences – being let go, demoted, or ostracized for even applying to graduate school. Yet when you’re job hunting, everyone expects a graduate degree. There’s an assumption by most employers that you should burden yourself with debt to get your degree, rather than try to work your way juggling work/school.

      That said, my roommate is currently doing the grad school and working thing and does it fabulously. It can be done, especially if you can find an employer who is willing to work with your schedule.

  2. Yeah, tell me about it. I started college wanting to go to medical school. I did the whole pre-med tract and everything. After realizing, though, that medicine just wasn’t for me, I worked for two years.

    And, man, I did it all. I taught spanish, worked in my dad’s restaurant, even went to nursing school for a while (that was a really bad decision). It wasn’t until recently, though, that I found my calling — DNA and proteins.

    I’ve been in graduate school now for about a semester. And, quite frankly, I love it. I plan on getting my PHD and ultimately pursuing a career in academia. Best decision I ever made.

    Good luck out there!

    • Hi Ju!

      Thanks so much for sharing your story! It’s nice to know that people in non-humanities fields struggle with these issues as well! And DNA & proteins sounds like a great calling!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  4. As somebody who is in graduate school and probably will be for quite a few years I thought I would chime in. For me, graduate school is a means to an end, a necessary evil for the independence needed in my chosen field. The only major drawbacks I’ve encountered are the low pay and the constant failure encountered day to day. If you’re capable of not taking failed science personally and can deal with low pay in exchange for the ability to make your own hours, then graduate school is completely for you. If I feel like sacrificing a Saturday so that I can have fun on a Tuesday I can do it unlike my peers who have a “real” job. Of course, it does put you slightly behind in the whole life journey i.e. buying a house in a timely manner, but who wants responsibility like that anyway.

    • I definitely think graduate school is an option for a lot of people, especially those, like yourself, who need to do graduate study and research in order to advance in their career. I don’t know a whole lot about professional sciencism but I imagine it would be difficult to get the kind of jobs you want through sheer pluck and charm.

      And, of course, I’ve always been a fan of less-traditional schedules and there is definitely a general trend away from the 9-5 work day structure, which I think is a positive move.

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