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the true cost of graduate school after Peace Corps

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the first two articles in this series:


The Golden Rules of Grad School After Peace Corps


5 Reasons in Favor of Grad School After Peace Corps, and 4 Reasons Against It


Even if you have a full ride, graduate school can be costly.

School fees are the most obvious costs, but not the biggest ones. Don’t forget to include these crucial factors in your cost calculations.


1. lost income opportunity

How much could you be earning if you took a job today? Even a full ride with stipend likely won’t put anywhere near the amount of money in your bank account as a full-time job would. 


2. interest on student loans and other debts

Since you’re not earning what you could be, then you’re not paying off the debts that you could be.


3. lost compound interest opportunity

The earlier you start saving, the more time your money has to earn interest on interest. That means more, better, or earlier retirement. Without a job that offers retirement benefits or enough extra income to invest, you’re missing out on years of compound interest.


4. real-world experience

Most employers value experience over education. Many will accept a couple years of experience in place of a degree.  A lot will choose a more experienced candidate over a more educated candidate. A few years of grad school means less real-world experience.


5. lost promotions, raises, and incentives

The Millennial generation has shown a strong tendency to change jobs frequently, so employers are offering increasingly strong incentives for staying on the job more than a couple years. Grad school puts you a few years behind on those benefits.


6. out-of-pocket personal expenses

Even if your fees are covered, you may still be paying living expenses from savings, loans, or credit cards. Same goes for the cost of relocating for your grad program. Spending your savings means less compound interest. Going into debt means paying for accruing interest later on.


7. differences in cost of living

The cost of living in your potential job market may be markedly different from the cost of living at your potential school. 


8. taxes

Full-time students generally don’t earn enough to pay taxes. Account for your federal and state tax rates when you consider how much potential income you could be losing by attending graduate school.  


9. experiences you’re putting off

Graduate school can be a double-edged sword when it comes to cool new experiences. Lots of travel grants are only available to students. Your time is generally more flexible. On the other hand, student stipends (if you have one) don’t generally allow for European vacations. And if your grad work is demanding, you may not have time for a vacation anyway.


But don’t grad degree holders earn more over their lifetimes?

Yes, the lifetime earning potential of a graduate degree currently outweighs these drawbacks over the course of a career. However, that only works if you actually like the field enough to spend the rest of your career working in it. And Millennials–who generally value experience and growth over income and prestige–don’t tend to do that.

To boot, we expect that the longstanding trend of more education = more income will markedly taper off over the next 10 years as the number of degree holders meets or exceeds the number of jobs available for degree holders. 

so what does that mean for your career?

~ Stay tuned! ~


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