What do you think of graduate school?

So I’ve been here in Taiwan for a long time, and though I love it here, I’m not doing the things that I want to do career wise, so I’ve decided to leave. However, it’s taking me a long time to do so, as the case seems to be with some people. Anyways, I’m thinking of going to grad school for a number of reasons:

  1. easier assimilation back into the States after being gone for almost a decade
  2. opportunity to learn more about my field

however, the price tag and application pains are making me hesitate. So I’m here to ask those of you that have been to graduate school whether you think it was worth the money, time, and headache to go?

Does it really increase your job opportunities?

Are you glad you went?

Would you suggest the same thing to me, or that I instead just jump back in the job market?

Oh, I’d study visual arts…like documentary science, video, etc.

thanks in advace.

Having a BA in film it seems like if I ever want to get out of the $16-20,000 a year range, unless I luck out and get back into film, grad school is the option I’ll have to go.

But I’m not rushing into it because for the price you have to pay and the time you have to spend, I think that you should know what you want to pursue so that it can work for you. I’m not interested in getting a MA in Looprugs so that it will qualify me for a higher payscale just because I have a MA.

Good luck. Many people do it and it works out. IMO I think you need to know why you’re doing it, and what you want from it. Once you have that all should be a piece of cake.

Avoid Art History.
Its been done to death.

Depends on what your field is.

Also, pick your school carefully, not based so much on reputation as on what the program is really ABOUT. For example, you might think Linguistics is Linguistics, but some schools are very far over to the sociolinguistics/touchy-feely side and others lean more towards the theoretical language is math but we’re willing to admit that phonetics is physics aspect.

The main reason to go to grad school is to forge ties with colleagues (your fellow students now) for the future, as well as to get a degree. So make sure your school will HAVE fellow-students (I went to a small MA program the first time with precisely one other student in the program. Needless to say that degree has not boosted me considerably professionally.)

Just some thoughts. Generally more education is more salable than less, unless you’re in a depressed area trying to get a job in McDonald’s, in which case I strongly advise you to wipe everything beyond high school from your resume. :smiley:

Yes. Because, as you say above, it made for easier assimilation back into the States after being gone for a long time.

Yes. Teaching English to kids in Taiwan was a great experience (me before grad school), but it didn’t translate into a marketable skill in the US. Employers did not see my experience as something that could help their organizations. Grad school provided me with a skill set that opened up doors to many new jobs.

If I had gone back to the US and tried to go straight into the job market, I’m sure that I would have become frustrated with the low level job opportunities available to me with 6 years of Taiwan teaching on my resume. I wasn’t even certified to teach in the US so a permanent teaching job was off limits without further training. Thus, it’s likely the frustration would have caused me to return to the life I had left in Taiwan.

Going home is tough enough on a social level without having to deal with the stress of limited employment opportunities. Grad school eliminated (or at least delayed) the latter problem. It provided me with a network of friends and a sense of community to help deal with the loss of what I left behind in Taiwan. I would agree with Ironlady’s point about picking a grad program that has more than just a few number of students. After a decade in Taiwan, you probably don’t have strong connections with old friends in the US anymore. You will need to build new relationships and grad school can provide you with a good starting point.


Grad school. See above.

You don’t have to limit yourself to grad school in the visual arts to work in this field. Perhaps you could look for a business or marketing grad program that fits well with an undergrad arts degree, which might provide you with some business skills to start your own video production company later on. Plus, multiple skill sets are very valuable to US employers.

My only caution about grad school is incurring a great deal of debt to finance an education in a field with limited or low paying job opportunities. I know nothing about your field so I can’t speak to the economic prospects of an MA in the visual arts, but you should research this issue before taking out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.

An important thing to note is that employers in the US are not waiting with open arms for you to return. You need to make yourself marketable to them and it may take a few years or more to get to that point. Be humble and keep your expectations reasonable.

My final comment is that your post does not say what you have been doing for work in Taiwan. My comments above are based on my experience as an English teacher in Taiwan for 6 years and subsequent return to the US. If you have worked some other job here that has given you skills that can transfer to the US, then my advice could be different. However, I assume that you posted your message because you are concerned that you lack sufficient skills for a direct return to the US job market.

[quote=“owl”]the price tag and application pains are making me hesitate. So I’m here to ask those of you that have been to graduate school whether you think it was worth the money, time, and headache to go?[/quote] Yes, it’s a pain, and expensive, but it’s worth it.

[quote=“owl”]Does it really increase your job opportunities?[/quote] Yes, it opens more doors. A B.A. seems to be good for a job at the mall these days. :s At least, given the number of people holding undergraduate degrees, having one doesn’t catch the eye of employers the way it once did. A graduate degree isn’t a magic bullet though.

[quote=“owl”]Are you glad you went?[/quote] Very. I left here thinking that I’d be gone for one year, and just do a quickie degree. Had so much fun, I stuck around to do a second. It was a fantatic experience. How often do you get to devote yourself, full time, to pursuing a passion? Even if I were to never get any sort of economic benefit out of it, it would be worth it for the experience. It is worth it–everyday–because as a result of having gone, I see things differently… see more than I did previously. Screw the bank balance: it’s enriched my life. How much is that worth?

[quote=“owl”]Would you suggest the same thing to me, or that I instead just jump back in the job market?[/quote] Can’t even begin to guess. It’s not for everyone. Going back after years abroad, you’ll have advantages over students who have gone straight through. You’ll find it to be a different experience, being one of the more mature students. I found grad school to be an absolutely fantastic experience, but wish that I’d focused a bit more on cultivating a few of the contacts and resources that would grease the skids on the career track. Not a biggie, as everything’s falling into place rather nicely, but something for you to keep in mind.

There’s a lot that you can do on your own, and given that the application deadlines tend to be around January/ February, you’ve got lots of time (assuming you’re not applying for funding, in which case, get busy!). There are also a lot of resources on line now, from places like MIT and Stanford. Much of grad school involves pushing yourself: see how much you can find and do now, on your own.


Be sure to ask to talk to some of the current grad students on the side, including some who have your selected advisor. A bad advisor can mean failure to complete the degree.

Be sure to look very, very seriously at the average time to degree of not only the program as a whole, but the students of your particular advisor.

Later, when proposing your thesis or dissertation topic, be sure to discuss it with at least two of the other advisors, and get their confirmation that they’ll support your choice of that topic in case anything happens to your advisor.

Just a few very valuable words from the sadly now wiser…