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7 of the Worst Reasons to Do a Master's Degree

By Mathilde Frot

Updated April 14, 2021 Updated April 14, 2021

Thinking of studying a master’s degree? While in some cases it can be a necessary step towards achieving your dream career, it’s not always a smart move. In fact, in some industries grad school is at best a waste of time, so it’s worth asking yourself if you really need to do a postgraduate degree. If your main motivation is any of the following reasons, that should be a warning signal that maybe a master’s isn’t actually for you.

“I’m not ready to work”

You’ll probably find that working in an office isn’t all that different from going to university, especially if you’re just starting out. You’ll have a daily routine of tasks to attend to, fixed hours, targets (i.e. grades) and none of the cons of going to school like homework and having no income. Depending on your sector, you might even find you’re a little richer than you were at university and have a little extra money to spend on things like nights out or takeaways, so don’t choose the student life just because you want to put off being an adult.

“I’m planning on waiting out the recession”

Using grad school as a ruse to wait out the recession is a fairly risky gamble. It might mean that you find yourself one or two years down the line exactly where you left off before your master’s and with more debt. There aren’t any shortcuts to employment. You just have to keep at it and not give up. Remember that it takes the average college graduate several months to find their first job.

“I want to work in academia”

Every nerdy college student has said at some point in their lives that they aspire to become an academic. With no experience of working life, how do you know for sure there isn’t another vocation out there that you’d love? As a rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to mull it over, so why not try taking a year to venture out into the real world before committing to a master’s degree?

There’s no reason to rush into a life in academia, so take your time and consider trying something else first. You might even find that the research interest you were so committed to a year ago doesn’t interest you anymore.

“I need to kill time before figuring out what to do with my life”

There’s no better way to figure out what you actually want to do in life than by doing things and working. Try out a job, and if it’s not for you, learn why and give another career a go. Find out what works for you and what doesn’t, while building valuable work experience. Avoiding the problem won’t make it go away.

“A prestigious alumni network would help me find a job”

The perks of having a “prestigious” alumni network to use as a safety net can often be overstated. There are other ways to build a network of contacts that don’t involve paying hefty tuition fees. Interning with a company you like, for instance, and making a good impression can have just as positive an impact on your future job prospects.

“I need to make up for my average undergraduate classification”

One of the most prevalent misconceptions out there is that having a master’s degree on your CV will make up for an average undergraduate classification. Most recruiters will be happy with a 2:1 in the UK or a GPA of 3.33 in the US, provided you meet the other requirements of the job and have the right personality. The myth of having the perfect CV is a little overdone. In most cases, you just need to be able to do what’s listed in the job description.

“My visa will expire soon”

Doing a master’s degree abroad on the off-chance an employer will sponsor you can be a bad idea. Employers tend to be unwilling to hire a candidate they need to sponsor unless there’s a significant skills shortage they need to fill. Unless you have skills which are particularly in-demand (such as web developing, engineering, or computer science), or visa laws explicitly state that holding a master’s degree from a local university will render you more eligible for a work permit, then don’t bother.

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This article was originally published in August 2017 . It was last updated in April 2021

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I'm originally French but I grew up in Casablanca, Kuala Lumpur and Geneva. When I'm not writing for QS, you'll usually find me sipping espresso(s) with a good paperback.

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