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Graduate school: deciding whether to go
A number of people at the upper end of the intelligence and hardwork spectrum, who also have high levels of intellectual curiosity and motivation to learn, and in many cases are deeply interested in a specific subject, consider going to graduate school. This page lists some general factors that could help you decide whether graduate school is a good option for you.
- Entry into academia: Graduate school is the only legitimate way to enter academia for most academic disciplines. People who directly get into an academic discipline without doing a Ph.D. in either that subject or a closely related subject are rare, though not unheard of. People who directly enter academia without having a Ph.D. in any subject are extremely rare, and unheard of in recent times.
- Does not provide a strong premium for most non-academic jobs: While there are some exceptions, in general, people may find that having completed a masters or doctoral degree does not increase their ease of getting jobs, their starting pay at the job, or the level of seniority or challenge of their initial tasks. While they're certainly not disadvantaged relative to people currently starting out directly after an undergraduate degree, they mayfind themselves ranked lower relative to people in their undergraduate cohort who started out in the job market right after finishing the undergraduate degree.
- Better for learning the subject deeply: Graduate school offers a rare opportunity for people to spend large amounts of time reading the subject, with a relatively flexible schedule and, for the most part, a steady albeit low income stream to alleviate concerns about money-making. This type of opportunity can be valuable both if you want to learn a particular subject and if you want to develop general skills of deep exploration and research. The experience is important for its consumption value (short-run enjoyment), human capital value(long-run acquisition of skills and knowledge), and signaling value (it convinced future potential employers that you possess relevant skills).
- Teaching: Many (but not all) graduate programs involve teaching tasks. The teaching can be significant for its immediate consumption value (how pleasant and rewarding it is), its signaling value (what it says to potential employers, mostly schools and colleges), and its human capital value (development of teaching skills).