Is Grad School Worth It?

I think the school you attend should pay for your master’s degree, personally. Here’s why.

Nate Matos
Feb 18 · 7 min read
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Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash

Is grad school worth it for you?

Maybe. Why?

In every way, shape, or form, it is better and more informational than undergrad. You step into grad school as a young adult rather than a kid fresh out of the house (and high school). You go in with a completely different mindset. However, I don’t think you should have to pay for your master’s.

I know some of you are thinking, “Who’s going to pay for it then?”

I’ll talk more about that in a bit.

If the school isn’t paying for your master’s degree, I personally don’t think it’s worth it.

A master’s degree can open doors for you regardless of your field. The norms and associations that such a degree holds will automatically put you ahead in the eyes of future employers. People will look at you in a very positive way. It’s a higher symbol of dedication and scholarly achievement.

A Graduate Assistantship

From my perspective, people considering a master’s obviously enjoy the learning process school has to offer to some degree. I am particularly one of those people. However, I did not want a master’s. My main reason was I didn’t want to pay for it. Followed by the bliss I felt from not going to school for the first time in my life post-undergrad. Though I did understand the opportunity that I was getting when I accepted a graduate assistantship.

A graduate assistantship is a way for the school to actually hire you as an employee, knowing you are also a student perusing a master’s degree in your desired career path. Essentially, you will be doing work, where at another institution, may have a full-time employee for the position. You will be completing relevant work and earning a master’s at a fraction of the cost. All while getting paid. So, you will be making money, working towards your master's, gaining in the field experience, while getting a very cheap master’s degree.

It’s about as many wins you could get in a situation as possible.

Another route you can take to achieve this is a Teacher Assistantship. You probably had one teaching your lab if you had any of those types of classes in undergrad.

Since that wasn’t my route in grad school, I’ll focus mainly on what it was like in my graduate assistantship.

I did pay about $8k for my master’s degree. Five thousand coming from leaving for a full-time job. Thus having to pay for the remaining classes out of pocket. If I had stayed, I would’ve paid less than half that price.

While I worked at Western Illinois, I was paid about $840/month after taxes. Bonus but definitely not included in all graduate assistantships, my housing was paid for. In reality, I had very few bills to pay. And I took home a decent amount of money once everything was paid for. By no means was I making decent money, but it was more than nothing and I didn’t have a lot of bills.

Remember when you go into grad school, you can freeze your loans because you are in school again. I’ll bring this up again when I get the opportunity cost of going to grad school.

Anyway, this opportunity I took to be a grad assistant took me all the way out of my comfort zone. For a major part of the last 4 years, I was surrounded by a pretty large city attending a school with the largest student body in the U.S. I spent a few months in the very crowded the Bay Area of California. My world flipped when I found out that the town the school, I was attending had a population of 20k, with 14k coming from students and faculty. I moved from the 9th largest city in the United States to a town with less than half the people that would attend ASU’s main campus in Tempe.

All because I didn’t want to pay for a master’s. And the fact that this is actually the path I had to take to get to the position I am in today.

Also, the learning in a master’s program is so much different than undergrad. You actually are graded on your thoughts versus your memorization of facts you’ll forget at some point. Sure, you have to be able to support your ideas with facts or research, but your thoughts come about usually because of the research.

I mean at least that’s what happened to me.

The classroom environment is something that needs to be acknowledged in this. Yes, you will have classes similar to undergrad, straight presentations, and memorization. It’s the classes where you have open discussions is where grad school impacted me the most. Because the professor isn’t there to facilitate the learning, the class is. The professor is there to mediate, question, prod, and guide ideas.

A group of young/or older adults openly exchanging ideas is a very interesting space. Not to say that this doesn’t happen in undergrad, rather in undergrad, not every really cares or has a complete understanding of the basics to further discuss advanced ideas and topics.

It’s another level of learning that I truly appreciated as someone who had thoughts flying around his head at 1000mph. Always, thinking and trying to grasp a deeper understanding of main psychology, fueled me in a lot of ways.

I was also able to become an author in two organizations widely known in the field of strength and conditioning. My professor helped me a lot in making this possible, I will always have a lot of respect for him and appreciation for what he did for me as a student and strength coach.

I was allowed to engrain my name in the field, when people go to research facts on Fartlek Training in the NSCA or the Overhead Squat in the Australian Journal of Strength and Conditioning they might just come across my name. To think that my name may be able to appear in someone’s search for personal improvement or reference search for their paper or research is an incredible feeling.

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The Opportunity Cost

I agree that the opportunity cost of getting a master’s may not be in favor of getting a master’s in my situation. I 100% agree it is not in favor if you are taking out a loan to pay for it. Remember the student loan benefits you get from attending school? So those payments are on hold and interest does not occur. Essentially two years of not paying 6+% on a 50–100k student loan. Depending on your situation, even if you do not pay your loan while in grad school you are momentarily saving money on the interest that would’ve had to pay working a regular job. And if the master’s actually allows you to get more money, then the opportunity cost goes in favor of getting a master’s.

That’s a big if though.

Because you obviously do not need degrees to make money. I think the rise in tech had shown the world there are more ways to make money than showing up to a 9–5. Not everyone enjoys being a freelancer or social media content creator. We also still need nurses and doctors and smart people pushing the levels of human achievement.

The opportunity cost for me was either work a job in my field that I was sure I would enjoy and give up the opportunity to see where collegiate strength and conditioning could take me.

The opportunity cost for me was potentially losing an opportunity I may not have gotten again.

If you are just going to grad school for the degree, it is not worth it. Increasing your debt is never a good idea in my opinion. I would rather work, start making money, and look for other ways to make money to make up for the difference a master’s may have provided for you.

Especially, if you are fresh out of undergrad.

Live after school is so amazing.

No more worrying about tests or projects or anything being graded. You can focus more on things that actually move the needle in your life more often without the interruption of projects that you don’t want to do or tests you do not feel prepared for.

I think of what I am doing now by writing on medium or flipping items on FB Market Place. And where I’ll be in two years. It might actually outweigh the benefit I have received from getting a master’s. In my personal situation, the two articles I published made grad school worth it. Maybe you get that opportunity, maybe not.

What is guaranteed in the working world, the more time you spend doing something the more efficient you become. The more efficient you become, the more tasks get completed, your productivity increases. As that increases, your pay will too.

Two years of school versus two years of experience.

I’m taking experience every time.

I think the world is starting to agree with that statement too.

At the end of the day, a master’s is just another piece of paper. It’s losing value because it is becoming more a more expected of people. All while producing less and less skilled people. That has always been the downfall of people coming out of school, educated but inexperienced.

Books teach.

With experience, you learn.

That’s just a fact.

If are you deciding on grad school, I really urge you to find a way to get it mostly paid for through an assistantship at your school. You can find these opportunities by searching your desired school’s website. Searching for “graduate assistantships” or “teacher assistantships” on the graduate page will give you some results.

These positions may also be posted on job boards since you’d be an employee of the school’s just like any other. At the end of the day, may you make a choice that fits your current situation. You can always go back to school; you can always make up the money you might’ve lost.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness and fulfillment.

Nate Matos

Written by

Just a kid from New Jersey // Masters in Kinesiology emphasis in sports psych // Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist // USAW Level 1 Coach

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join thousands of others making the climb on Medium.

Nate Matos

Written by

Just a kid from New Jersey // Masters in Kinesiology emphasis in sports psych // Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist // USAW Level 1 Coach

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join thousands of others making the climb on Medium.

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