Does Your Field Require a Graduate Degree?

Many students today find themselves immediately entering graduate school after completing college. Their reasons for returning so quickly vary: some find the job market too difficult to break into, some know their fields require higher degrees, some simply enjoy school. For those who enter graduate school to bring their dream jobs within reach, it may be surprising to hear that not all professional fields require you to have an advanced degree, and in some cases, a higher education may actually be a hindrance.

Do I Need an Advanced Degree?

It goes without saying that many careers in the medical industry require a great deal of schooling beyond undergraduate college. To be a doctor, veterinarian, physical therapist, or medical scientist, a doctorate level degree is required. Physicians’ assistants, who provide medical care to patients under a licensed doctor’s supervision, are also required to have graduate degrees. Additionally, careers in scientific fields often require Masters or Doctorate degrees. To participate in academic research in many fields, including archaeology and biology, at least a Masters degree is required. While a Bachelor’s degree in psychology may allow you to work utilizing your degree in some professional positions, a higher degree is required to practice as a clinical therapist. Surprising to some, careers in public health or health administration also often require job candidates to have at least a Masters’ degree. Environmental scientists and researchers as well as those employed in law firms, even as legal assistants, typically have higher degrees.

When a Bachelors Will Do

The good news is, not all fields require a higher degree for career advancement. Many creative industries, such as graphic design or publishing, do not require more than a Bachelor’s degree for most positions. Teaching , marketing, advertising, and computer science markets are typically filled by employees who do not possess higher degrees, or those who decided to return to school for an advanced degree after obtaining employment. In fact, many times, and especially in today’s economy, many hiring managers will advise against obtaining a graduate degree unless the field absolutely requires higher education, as in the case of doctors or lawyers.

The reason they say this is because the more education you have, the more valuable you are in the eyes of an employer and the more money your credentials are worth. In uncertain times and in a shaky economy, employers are looking to cut costs, not add to their budgets. If a four-year degree is sufficient to enter your field, you may be actually be hurting your chances and diminishing your appeal to potential employers because you technically “cost” more with an advanced degree. If graduate school is something you’re considering, be sure to research your field to ensure your higher degree is worth the cost.


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