To apply or not apply. That is the question many of you are asking yourselves as admissions deadlines approach. Is it time to go for the MBA? The JD? MD? PhD?
Here’s the answer: it depends. It depends on you, your circumstances, and your goals. You’re considering investing the next 1-8 years studying – this is a big decision and not one with a general “yes” or “no” answer. As you evaluate your unique situation, make sure you consider the following:
If you’re considering a PhD…
The best reason (for most people) to pursue a PhD is to secure a career in academia. For professorships at big-name research institutes, it’s the only way in. Sure, people enter other industries after becoming this “other kind” of doctor, but they don’t necessarily need the degree to get there, and generally their time would be better spent gaining real-world experience.
A PhD is the right degree for you if…
• You live and breathe research – using data of all kinds to build on existing theories, generate new ones, and explain phenomena.
• You love debating theory and methodology with others.
• You have discipline and patience. As you can imagine, earning a PhD also takes tremendous discipline – for that matter, so does being a professor. It’s not for those who require a lot of external structure and guidance.
If you’re considering going to business school…
Getting an MBA takes the least time of any advanced degree (1-2 years) and generates good job opportunities, so if you have well thought-out career goals and know that the degree will help you achieve those goals, then this could be a good option for you. It is a substantial investment in terms of tuition costs (as well as the potential time away from your career), so engage in some serious self-reflection about your goals and interests.
An MBA is the right degree for you if…
• You’re interested in propelling your current business career forward, or potentially changing fields or job functions.
• You’re an entrepreneur or thinking about starting your own business.
• You enjoy structure and data-based problem-solving and team projects.
If you’re considering going to med school…
It takes a long, long time to become a doctor, but once you’re there, you’ll likely have a stable income and a stable job.
An MD is the right degree for you if…
• You truly want to help people while making a reasonable living.
• You enjoy solving the problems that doctors solve. That sounds self-evident, but you may forget, especially after all the TV shows that highlight the profession’s highest and lowest moments, that in the end it’s often you in a room with patients and/or other doctors, trying figure out how to diagnose and treat a given set of symptoms. Are you good at that kind of pattern-matching-based problem-solving?
• You’re okay with the idea of dissecting a cadaver (you have to, in med school).
• You don’t mind dealing with people often at their worst (other than pathology, radiology, and maybe some other specialties, you’ll have to).
If you’re considering going to law school…
There is a very large number of trained lawyers do not work as attorneys – many end up in the business world and elsewhere. This is due to one of two reasons (generally): one, that getting a job as an attorney may be difficult, given supply and demand (it’s still a challenging job market for lawyers right now); two, that many people rush into law school without really knowing if they want to be lawyers. So think hard about it, and be sure you want to go to law school. Maybe it makes sense to work in the field before committing to grad school. Research what attorneys do, day to day. Again, TV has glamorized litigation (i.e., trial work), but many lawyers rarely set foot in the courtroom.
A JD is the right degree for you if….
• You want to be a lawyer.
• You thrive in a rigorous, intellectually challenging environment.
• You have strong writing and critical thinking skills.
Think hard about your grad school decision. Don’t get a degree because you feel you “should” or you don’t have a lot of other options. Those reasons are just not strong enough or smart enough to justify the time and costs that go into graduate education.
If and when you decide a graduate degree is the way to go, we can help! Check out our catalog of services for more information.