Why is there such negativity about going to grad school, but not for those getting their MD/PhD/etc?


Title says it all. It seems if you say “I’m going to grad school” you hear “my condolences” or people questioning why you would do that in the first place. But for those getting their doctorate, not the same response. Aren’t they going through way more schooling, spending way more money, and generally kissing their life goodbye?

In: Other

Grad school is a long, hard slog. Even for a Ph.D. student, who (in my field) gets a stipend and has tuition covered by the instituition, the student isn’t making a lot of money.

Getting a Ph.D. (or an M.D.) means finishing that struggle and getting, at the very least, a shiny new title. It usually also means making more money.

When I encountered this, it wasn’t that people disapproved, it was that people knew that I was embarking on a long, potentially expensive process that would be years of hard work, and might not result in financial or personal reward.

That said, I’m sure there are people who think all higher education is a waste of time and money.

Generally grad school is not required for many professions. Usually you either need just an undergraduate degree or a full doctorate. Many people get a master’s right after their undergraduate degree “just because” and without any real forethought into the real value of it. Additionally, for some professions you getting a masters without having any real world experience may make it even harder to find a job. This is especially true for teachers, who by their union contracts would have to be paid more than other teachers who may have several years of experience but no masters.

It’s also dependent on how valuable that particular degree is in your field. In STEM a PhD is required if you want to become a research professor for example. Obviously to practice medicine you need an MD. But things like MBA’S where a few years of real world experience might ultimately increase your chances of getting a job over spending the time and money to get the master’s, it might not be worth it. In other words if the degree doesn’t open more or at least a few specific doors, then there isn’t a whole lot of value in that degree.

Those are all graduate level programs.

With the MD programs, it’s more famous for being very difficult to get into, and people will typically spend 4-6 years during undergrad preparing EXACTLY for that application process, getting the grades, taking the MCAT, doing research, volunteering, etc. It’s seen as a big accomplishment once you get in, because it’s a result culminating from years of hard work.

It’s similar to this for other graduate programs, like PA school, vet school, etc. People think of these as being prestigious, partially because they associate them with a specific profession they can relate to, and they are recognized as being higher earners. With other PhD and masters programs, people just know less about them. They know they’re hard, and you work a lot. They don’t associate them any specific goal career, and are unsure of how “high status” the earnings will be. They also aren’t usually famous for the preparation of applying to them. People usually don’t start freshman year eager to start building their CV so they have the best application for a masters program, so it’s not viewed as as much of major achievement by simply being accepted.

There are basically three kinds of graduate study.

1) Professional graduate degree (doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc): costs a fortune, but usually leads to a very high-paying job if you finish.

2) Academic PhD in natural sciences (physics, biology, chemistry): usually free (paid for by the government), often leads to a decent-paying job.

3) Academic PhD in humanities or social sciences (English, art, anthropology, etc): costs a fortune, might lead to a decent-paying job if you are very lucky or unusually talented.

Most people can easily see the upside of #1, the downside of #3, and have no idea how #2 actually works.