I was lucky enough not to step on the grad school treadmill out of college. It would have postponed some decisions, and had I pulled up my socks to go through yet another application process that might have been a good thing. But I had sense enough to know that I was personally burned out and that the tool to work through it all was not an advanced degree that I didn't have a specific plan for.
Flash forward a quarter century-- I did get a master's (from a liberal arts sort of trade school), which did do for me what I wanted as well as being a nice two years. But that was a completely different sort of track from the (very small) PhD program at the same school. I had to interact with some of the doctoral candidates when I was a TA for a class, and they were from a completely different planet when it came to personal and professional expectations.
Now, as it happens, I'm thinking of some kind of MA or MPhil in my original history major, but that's more about staving off dementia than gunning for any kind of career. If I stumble on a subject worth writing about at length, that would be a nice bonus. But it's hard to see how it would relate directly to anything slightly involved with making money. And a PhD, barring some kind of Road to Demascus experience, is quite out of whack in terms of costs vs. benefits. Costs at this point include the investment of several years, which are in shorter supply now than when I left college.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out for my daughter. She's a sophomore at a good private school, and will-- with any luck-- have a few decent options for college. Whether she chooses/is chosen to go to a larger research university or aims at the liberal arts colleges where you actually get taught by your professors is an open question. And after the BA, what kind of MA, if any, will help her get organized for the working world or get her better noticed is even less clear.
Given the way the economy is (still) shifting around, along with the related geopolitical and social environment, it may be better not to plan too much at this point.
Edited by Concordia - 7/28/11 at 9:38am