Evaluating decisions for graduate school

Depending on a students’ career and goal, graduate school may not be necessary for everyone at Laurier


Photo by Paige Bush
Photo by Paige Bush

For students at Wilfrid Laurier University, deciding whether or not to go to graduate school is a serious decision which requires research and self-reflection.

“If you’re really passionate about a subject, I recommend that people think about it but acknowledging that it takes time, it’s very intense, it takes money,” said Joan Norris, dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies.

Norris noted it’s important to recognize that graduate school is not for everyone.

Some careers may require from internships, volunteer positions and work experience rather than another piece of paper.

“Depending on what your career goal is … it might not necessarily be needed for what you want to do,” said Katherine St. Louis, manager of career resources and operations at the Career Centre.

“If you can’t think of anything else to do, it’s not a good reason to go to grad school because it’s an intense experience and if you’re not really enthused to start, I can guarantee you’re not going to be enthused half-way through,” said Norris.

On the other side, Norris said there are also many reasons why students should consider graduate school.

Passion and looking for promotion opportunities are among the reasons education after an undergraduate may be worth it.

“The main reason [to go] is because you have the passion in something,” Norris said.

Statistics Canada reported salaries for 2010 Ontario graduates working full-time three years after they graduated from a post-secondary institution.

Those with only bachelor degrees had annual median incomes of $54,000 compared to those who had master’s degrees who earned $70,000 annually.

“It’s going to take up a lot of your time, but I would also say it’s 100 per cent worth it in terms of the skills that you develop but also the people that you meet,” said Caitlin Mulroney, a student in the master’s of history program at Laurier.

Both Norris and St. Louis emphasized that graduate school is a very individual decision and there is no “rule” of who should or shouldn’t pursue graduate studies.

Of all 2014 Laurier graduates, 40 per cent pursued further education within a year of completing their bachelor’s degree, said St. Louis.

A survey of Laurier graduates in 2014 divided students by faculty where science students ranked the highest at 62.6 per cent and business students the lowest at 11.3 per cent when pursuing a post-graduate degree.

Music and arts were in the middle with 58.9 per cent and 45.6 per cent respectively.

“For a lot of the fields that [science students are] looking for jobs in, they need that graduate degree to get there … for a lot of business type roles, the [business] undergraduate degree is going to give you the information, the field knowledge that you need for those jobs,” St. Louis explained.

Students interested in graduate studies can strengthen their applications by researching desired programs and getting quality reference letters from professors, as well as out of the classroom experience to find out what passions they have.

Letters of reference from professors are “very important,” said S. Louis, and it’s important to keep good relationships that are going to help.

“All that research that you’ve done helps you to take that research combined with your own experiences and interests and put forth a really strong letter of intent,” St. Louis explained.

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