Here’s a guest post written by Stephanie Farah from CollegeXpress.com!
Growing up, going to college was always a foregone conclusion for me. There was no way I wasn’t going to go. I also always knew that I was going to major in English. But it wasn’t until my senior year of college that, still unsure of what exactly I wanted to do with my degree, I started exploring graduate programs.
All I knew was that I wanted to do something with words, and when I found a graduate program in journalism, I knew it would be a perfect match for both my interests and career goals. So I took the GRE, secured a few recommendations from my professors, and was accepted just in time to start grad school the month after I finished undergrad. True, my B.A. alone might have gotten me a few interviews and perhaps even a job that I could have settled for, but my master’s degree helped me fine tune the writing and research skills I’d learned in undergrad and made me a far more marketable job candidate.
After grad school, when I began searching for my first full-time job, I landed interviews at companies that wouldn’t have given me a second look had I only had a bachelor’s degree. And employers were willing to pay me more than job candidates who didn’t hold master’s degrees. Today, seven years later, I am indeed working with words as I’d hoped to. I’m an editor for an educational publisher and a blogger for CollegeXpress.com, and I moonlight as a freelance copywriter.
While statistics continue to show that any education beyond high school translates into better job opportunities and increased earning potential, there are many fields in which a bachelor’s degree simply isn’t enough to make a job applicant stand out in a sea of worthy candidates. The American Academy of Arts & Sciences’ Commission on the Humanities & Social Sciences recently issued a report, “The Heart of the Matter,” in response to flagging humanities enrollments at American colleges and universities. The report has generated numerous discussions, many of which have focused on the value (or lack thereof) of humanities degrees versus the value of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degrees.
Having studied English, I for one do see the value in studying the humanities. In addition to the fact that such degrees teach students how to think critically and creatively, they can also prepare them for careers in a wide range of fields. Some of the world’s most successful people earned liberal arts degrees, including CEOs like PayPal founder Peter Thiel (he studied 20th century philosophy at Stanford), and numerous politicians, including President Obama, who majored in political science at Columbia. But it must be noted that a great number of those people also complemented their undergraduate studies with a graduate degree.
Regardless of your major, grad school just might be your ticket to the career you’ve always dreamed of. And don’t let the cost of tuition stand in your way. Scholarships and grants aren’t just for undergraduates. Start by looking into the scholarship opportunities for graduate students at the schools to which you are applying, and bear in mind that doing well on the GRE can help. The cost of my graduate program was covered nearly 100% by an institutional scholarship I won due in part to my high GRE scores. If there aren’t any scholarship opportunities available at your school, try searching for funds through online scholarship searches such as the one at CollegeXpress.com. You can also look into fellowships and assistantships. I worked as a graduate assistant throughout my time in grad school, which allowed me to earn an income while gaining invaluable experiences that strengthened my résumé.
If you’re considering or are in the process of applying to grad school, rest assured that you’ll be making a worthwhile investment in yourself. The lessons you learn both inside and outside the classroom can reinforce your undergraduate studies, add an attention-grabbing stamp to your résumé, and, with a little hard work on your part, help you land the career of your dreams.
Stephanie Farah is a blogger for CollegeXpress.com, a comprehensive college and scholarship search website. She earned a B.A. in English at the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Journalism at the University of North Texas. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, and hanging out with her Great Dane. You can follow her on Twitter.