I am a grad student. I am specifically working on a M.Div, which is a 3 year professional degree not unlike the J.D. that lawyers seek. To be honest, I am seeking a M.Div because it opens up certian $35,000 jobs in the civic and non-profit sector such as chaplaincy positions. 7 years of school (4 years B.A. plus a three year professional degree) and likely student loans comparable to the cost of a house seems a little much for the potential of a job which pays under the national average.
People who go into education have slightly higher pay, but still are not compensated for their educaction — it seems that for the most part graduate school is not a road to prosperity. With college prices raising faster than the rate of pay for people with jobs, it is clear that the situation will only become worse — we live in a country that does not place value on formal education.
In spite of our unwillingness to pay people for professional education, we still insist on professional degrees. School teachers are expected to eventually earn their Master’s of Education. People who seek positions in ministry are expected to seek a Master of Divinity, though many work as vollunteers or on a part time basis. There is also a master of social work for those who want to protect children, and do so at a pay which causes non college grads to complain. Serving our wider society is a recipee for a high debt load, and possible poverty.
In spite of all this, I contend that grad school is not a mistake. If the meaning of our lives were measured by our bank accounts, it would be foolhardy to think of anyone other than ourselves, grad-school is instead a selfless choice where people sacrifice in order to help build their society. We do not pursue a salary, but an oppertunity to improve ourselves and the world around us — and if we accomplish this goal, there is no doubt that we made the right decision.