The price of higher education is a concern for many individuals who are contemplating graduate school. Advanced degrees come with a risk: A specialized field offers the chance of a significant pay increase, but it doesn’t guarantee the degree-earner a job once they are done with school.
During this time, the intense level of requirements to obtain that advanced degree reduces the time and energy a person has to stay involved in their personal lives and hold down a job to help pay for their basic needs. Additionally, every specialized field has an internship or detailed research project requirement that must be met and, for some people, can take years to complete. There is a lot of risks, but that risk must be balanced with the reward of the knowledge being obtained.
Risk and Academic Risk-Taking
The final decision of whether to continue to take risks in an academic setting lies in the individual. However, a basic understanding of risk must be involved in order to make that decision in an educated, well-thought-out manner.
Risk itself can be dynamic, or it can be static. Dynamic risk is that academics tend to deal with the most. They are giving up the certainty of a regular job and consistent pay to reach for the uncertainty of a better life once they obtain their advanced degree and a career in that field. Static loss, on the other hand, is a loss with no chance of a gain coming from it.
When it comes to academic risk-taking, each person has to take their own situation into account. They must weigh the knowledge of their own personal financial situation, plan ahead for costs they will incur, be able to know and stick to their budget limitations, and go out of their way to find ways to overcome this obstacle.
In addition, the individual must weigh the actual risk for the potential outcome. The cost of an advanced degree with minimal chance of a position in which that degree would be used is a high risk/low outcome situation. Each person’s risk factor is different, but as a general rule, most individuals won’t risk a lot for little gain.
However, this final decision is usually made based on the person’s overall judgment call, often based on their level of fear. Fear of risk and loss inhibits a person from taking that leap into the unknown and falling, but it also can prevent them from furthering their degree and entering into a life of great reward.
The American model of higher education works differently than that of most other countries. When a student graduates high school, they are able to attend a basic university to work towards a bachelor’s degree in their field of choice. This is a way for those who weren’t successful in high school to demonstrate maturity and take a chance at moving ahead in their education and get a better job. They receive a high reward for taking that next level risk, but it’s a mitigated risk predicated on the idea that the financial price of a bachelor’s degree is often padded with loans and grants.
But for those who can’t obtain financial aid or head on to higher degrees, the risk rises. They are now investing a significant amount of money, wagering it on the hope that they are able to obtain their degree and use it to pay off their investment and reap further benefits.
For many students, the outcome of whether their risk of higher education pays off isn’t going to be apparent until after they have already invested their time and money into their degree. Ultimately, the academic risk must be approached through the analysis of individual variables and an understanding of the potential careers awaiting graduates with a specific degree.
Is the risk worth the reward? Millions of graduate degree recipients would argue yes, but the final determination is decided by the individual.
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