Novel Ideas [65]: Should I Go To Grad School?

Posted October 8, 2014 by Tara Gold in Novel Ideas, Review /// 4 Comments

Novel Ideas [65]: Should I Go To Grad School?Should I Go to Grad School? by Allison Rodman, Bosko Blagojevic, Jessica Loudis, John Arthur Peetz
Published by Bloomsbury on 2014-05-06
Genres: Adult, Nonfiction
Pages: 256
Source: ARC from NetGalley

The decision to attend graduate school is easy for future doctors and lawyers: they must have a professional degree to get started. But for young creative workers, aspiring artists, and intellectuals, grad school is an existential fork in the road. An M.F.A. or a humanities Ph.D. can give you time to invest in studying something you love among like-minded intellectuals and qualify you to teach a new generation of students; but it can also uproot you geographically, expose you to backstabbing competitors, and saddle you with debt. Given the current job market, is grad school really worth it financially, professionally, and emotionally?

In Should I Go to Grad School?, a wide range of people who lead intellectually and creatively interesting lives sculptors and philosophers, activists and poets, a cocktail designer and a movie star tell their own stories about choosing to go to grad school or steering clear and what that decision has meant in their lives. They give us an inside look at what grad school today is really like, and share the wisdom they wish they could have had going in. They reflect on their divergent paths to success, and muse about the path not taken. With contributors including David Orr, James Franco, Simon Critchley, Terry Castle, Sheila Heti, and many more, Should I Go to Grad School? is a must read for anyone seriously considering that titular question.

novel ideas featured2 2014

Should I Go To Grad School? might be an interesting read for anyone thinking about this huge step.

Grad school is both glorified and vilified in our society, and the 41 contributors to this book examine many sides of the issues. I was glad that the book didn’t really cover folks who need graduate school for certifications and to enter specific professions (eg, library science and, often, social work), but rather the folks who want to pursue graduate school for everyone else. Is it really worth it to earn a master’s or PhD in art, sociology, English, etc?

Well, many of the essays here would actually discourage getting a graduate degree without a clear plan or goal in mind. The basic idea is that graduate school is not like the real world, and often it is not necessary, or even helpful, to earn one. Many of the essays are  very critical of academia, professors, universities, students, and the learning that takes place between all of these.

My own opinion on the topic is that I don’t think a lot of people really understand what graduate school truly is. Grad school often consists of deep reading and research in a field of study, and many people really do not need that kind of education to attain their goals. The essays in this book advocate for the learning that takes place outside of the walls of the ivory tower. It may seem a bit hypocritical for me to agree with the idea that most people shouldn’t go to graduate school, but I do think the essays here present a compelling argument for that point of view in certain fields.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to go to graduate school is driven my many factors, only one of which is the question of if the knowledge gained in grad school is actually helpful in a future career. It is true that much of this learning can take place on the job or through independent study, but we all know that a sparkling resume with an accredited degree does matter to some employers for completely superficial reasons.


I’m giving Should I Go To Grad School? a C only because the title is misleading. This is not a book for folks pursuing advanced degrees in professional schools or sciences, so the audience is very limited. But if you are looking at an advanced degree in art, sociology, or English, you might want to read some of the advice presented here. I’ve learned from my friends that some of these degrees are lengthy, morale-busting, and soul-crushing with limited hope for tenure-track employment upon graduation. Not to demotivate anyone, but I do think such decisions should be researched before they are made.

What do you think? Is grad school worth it?

Tara Gold

Tara is a PhD candidate studying education. Her dissertation is on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life...well, that's yet to be determined, but it probably involves getting kids jazzed about books or research. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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4 responses to “Novel Ideas [65]: Should I Go To Grad School?

  1. For some professions, grad school is essential. For those who don’t need it to advance in their careers, it is arbitrary. The cost is phenomenal these days, and there are less expensive, individual courses that can satisfy the desire for more knowledge or pleasure.

  2. Grad school is such a personal choice. I think some people mistake that it means a better job or larger paycheck. It’s not always true and then people discredit grad school. Grad school never promises any big payout and it shouldn’t be expected.

    That said, I don’t have a Masters and don’t plan on getting one. I applied for a Masters program fresh out of undergrad and was rejected. I was devastated at the time but after a year of working, I no longer wanted to go back to school.

  3. I actually bought this book and started it awhile back. I’m a long way from graduate school but it’s there in the back of my mind. I’ve been mentally debating it for ages. I think I’ll take another look at this.

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