With $1.1 trillion of student debt in the United States, the thought of spending even more money for graduate school can be frightening. However many people in today’s young workforce may find it necessary to earn advanced degrees to help them to qualify for career specific certifications or enhance their skills. Thankfully there may be a few ways in which qualified individuals might be able to pursue a graduate degree without having to take on additional loans.
Professors at colleges and universities not only teach their students, but conduct innovative academic research and write scholarly articles for professional journals. Typically, graduate assistants are hired by each department in order to help these professors with the grunt work. These are usually graduate students within the department that the professor teaches in, though this is not always necessarily the case. Graduate assistants typically work part-time for a professor in return for full or partial tuition and a stipend. Graduate Assistants often take on many responsibilities such as assisting with research, writing journal articles, teaching, grading, and other administrative tasks.
While the professor creates and plans out a research study, it is the Graduate Assistant who will often times collect, input, code and analyze the data. Graduate Assistants may also assist a professor in conducting the initial research for a journal article by summarizing other scholarly articles that may be used as sources in a literature review. Assisting in research is not the only aspect of a Graduate Assistant’s job. They will oftentimes help their professor with classroom duties such as grading assignments or with more administrative tasks such as compiling a professor’s tenure portfolio.
Working as a Graduate Assistant may be beneficial in many ways. Not only could it potentially help pay for a good portion of graduate school, but it may give invaluable work experience in a field they are likely to be pursuing. Simply being selected as a graduate assistant may be impressive to potential employers if, for example, it is a highly desired position. Working as a graduate assistant may also help develop one’s analytical and writing skills, which may also be attractive to employers. Furthermore, the knowledge a Graduate Assistant may gain from the research that they perform might prove beneficial in their future careers.
The only downside to being a graduate assistant is that the stipend is often not enough to cover the cost of living. Because a graduate assistant may be working 20+ hours a week and attending graduate school full-time, it may be extremely difficult to work another job in order to cover basic living expenses. A graduate assistantship may be most desirable to someone who is married and can be supported by their spouse or to a recent college graduate who is living at home with their parents.
If you are already in the workforce, a common way to earn money for graduate school is through tuition reimbursement benefits. In fact, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, 59% of companies offer graduate tuition reimbursement benefits to their employees. This practice is even more common with high tech companies as 94% of them reimburse the costs of graduate school for their employees (1).
Many companies see investing in their employee’s continuing education as an investment in themselves. A graduate education might help the employee become more knowledgeable in the field in which they work. Companies might also have opportunities to attract more clients if a higher percentage of their employees have advanced degrees. Covering the cost of graduate school courses could also serve as incentive for employees to work harder at their jobs. If an employee wishes to continue their education, they should appeal to their employer and explain how taking the course will improve their ability to do their job. (2)
After college some graduates might seek work in college admissions offices recruiting potential students and reviewing their applications as admissions counselors. Individuals working for a college or university might discover opportunities to take advantage of free tuition at the university for which they are employed. Many colleges and universities provide their employees and employees’ spouses and children with opportunities for free or reduced tuition. Potential jobs in higher education range throughout a variety of areas.
shrm.org/research/surveyfindings/articles/documents/13-0245%202013_empbenefits_fnl.pdf | shrm.org/research/articles/articles/pages/metricofthemonthprevalenceoftuitionreimbursementprogram.aspx
About the Author: Rebecca Chabrow holds a master's degree in school counseling, and lives and works in northern New Jersey.