Whether you’re getting your master’s degree, already have one, or plan to take on graduate school after you finish your undergrad education, you’ll be joining a growing number of people in the United States who’ve pursued advanced education. While there are some things you may know about being a graduate student and where you’ll end up after you graduate, there are others you might not. These statistics will show you the real ins and outs of being a graduate student and both the good and the not-so-good things that come with higher education.

  1. In several Northeastern states, nearly 16 percent of the population has a graduate degree. Leading the pack is Maryland, with 15.7% of the population holding a graduate level degree, followed closely by Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Virginia and Vermont. While living in a place with a highly educated population has its benefits, there can be some drawbacks as well. While some professions require an advanced degree to even be considered for the job, others go into graduate school hoping to make themselves stand out from the crowd through education– something that’s hard to do when so much of the population is just as educated, if not more so, than you.
  2. Only 40 percent of PhD candidates take out a loan to go to school. You might think going to school for an additional five to ten years would rack up a mountain of debt. But for many students seeking out a PhD, colleges and universities do a great job of deferring many of the costs associated with school. Teaching and research assistant-ship, as well as tuition waivers take care of many of the expenses students face when they’re working towards a PhD. Master’s students aren’t always so lucky, however, as many of these programs are for PhD students only. On average, Master’s degree students will accrue $12,746 a year in debt, though this number can vary widely based on the amount of support a school offers and the type of advanced degree being pursued.
  3. Overall, the highly educated are less likely to be unemployed, with unemployment rates sitting at 2.1 to 4.6 percent. This is in contrast to an unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent overall and a staggering 7.8 to 14 percent for those without a college education. While there has always been a gap between unemployment rates in the educated versus the uneducated, Labor Department statistics have shown that those numbers have become even more staggering. Due to the recession when employers can afford to be pickier in their hiring, making you feel pretty good about your investment in a graduate degree.
  4. Education doesn’t make individuals recession-proof, however, as the number of unemployed people with college degrees, even advanced ones, doubled in the last year. That’s an additional one million highly educated individuals who are out of work. Some experts estimate that the cushy gap between unemployment for the educated and the uneducated could begin to close, as undergraduate and graduate degrees become more of the norm in the modern workforce. Another factor? Those with higher degrees are often qualified for better positions with benefits, something employers have been reluctant to fill when facing economic pressures.
  5. Women earn 60 percent of Master’s degrees and 48.8 percent of Doctorates. If you feel like your graduate courses are filled with women, you’re probably right. More women graduate from high school and college at nearly all levels than their male counterparts. Women earn significantly more Master’s degrees than men and about the same number of doctorates. Figures that are projected to grow (to 63 percent of Master’s and 56 percent of Doctorates) over the coming decades so that women will continue to outpace men in terms of attainment of higher education. Of course, all that education may not help women get jobs in academia as women make up much less of the tenured faculty at nearly all major U.S. universities.
  6. There is a significant racial gap when it comes to graduate education, with whites being awarded 66 percent of Master’s degrees and 57 percent of Doctoral degrees. While the number of black, Hispanic and other minority groups pursuing advanced education has increased over the past decade, there are still far fewer of these students who choose to go on to higher education. Some believe it may have to do with lower quality education starting in elementary school, but other research has shown there is something to be said for admissions tests that demonstrate a racial bias as well. Students may not realize that a good portion of the racial diversity on their college campus comes from non-resident, foreign students, who make up 12 and 27 percent of the student body for Master’s and Doctoral programs respectively.
  7. Not all graduate degrees are created equal when it comes to finding work. According to Forbes, some degree programs may not be the best investment given the current job market and the debt some graduate programs will require students to accrue versus the income they’ll receive once they graduate. Among the best degree programs are in Physician’s Assistant Studies, with a 39 percent employment increase and a mid-career salary of $98,000, and Computer Science, with growth of 27 percent and mid-career salaries averaging around $111,000. Those who choose to pursue passion over stable finances won’t mind that their degrees in Social Work, Fine Arts and English rank among the least profitable and least sought after programs.
  8. Graduate degree holders aren’t immune to cheating–especially in business– with 56 percent of MBA students admitting to cheating and 47 percent of graduate students overall. The second most likely major to cheat? Engineers. The least? Social science and humanities. Researchers acknowledge that these numbers may be deceptively low, as students may not want to admit their indiscretions, even anonymously. As to the reasons behind business students being more willing to cheat, the director of the study feels it has to do both with peer pressure and the pressure to succeed.
  9. Millennials, the portion of the population aged 18-29, are the most educated generation in history with 63 graduated or planning to graduate from college and an additional 50 percent of those students planning advanced education. If you’re a graduate student within this age group, you’re neither alone nor will you be in the coming years. It seems changing trends in the working world and education have made it necessary for this generation to get even more education. With tough competition in the job market and more jobs requiring higher education, it may well be that the Millennials end up being far more educated than their gen-x predecessors. Graduate schools can expect to see larger numbers of students applying for and entering advanced degree programs over the next decade, a trend that many who are at the older end of this spectrum may have already laid the groundwork for.
  10. Education can affect your politics, as those with more education tend to take a more liberal stance on social issues. Take the issue of same-sex marriage for example. Among those without a college education, only 25 percent were in support as opposed to 39 percent of those with a college education. Forty-six percent of Master’s grads and 43 percent of PhD’s were in support. Of course, the trend doesn’t end there, higher education was found to have an impact on opinions of nearly all social issues, including things like social security, welfare and even national security. Some theories on why this is so range from college students being exposed to a wider range of cultures, people and ideas to those with higher education often being less religious overall.
  11. The number of doctoral degrees has increased 28% over the past ten years. A doctorate used to be much more of a rara avis than it is today. As more and more students stick around in academic, whether for their personal interest or to improve job prospects, the pool of available PhDs has gotten bigger. While a large portion of this increase is due to foreign students, American students are heading to school for longer in increasing numbers. While this is great news for the education level of the population, it can make it harder for those looking for work in academic or research positions to find work. In fact, over the past few years, many PhD students have chosen to stay in post-doctoral positions to get experience and look for long term work.
  12. Nearly 20 percent of all graduate and first-professional students get some tuition support from their employers and nearly 80 percent for those in Fortune 500 companies. As many graduate students are learning, it’s not such a bad thing to be employed full time while in graduate school. Sure, it may be more work, but it can also have some great financial benefits. For many students, giving up full time work while in school simply isn’t an option, especially for programs like MBAs at prestigious schools that come with a hefty price tag attached. Getting the support of a tuition help and a full-time paycheck can help make higher education a reality for many who wouldn’t otherwise consider pursuing it.
  13. Sixty-eight percent of students enrolled in part-time graduate study are 30 years of age or older. While the millenials may be heading to graduate school in droves, Master’s and Doctoral programs are still heavily populated by those returning to school mid-career. It may not be unheard of to finish your PhD before thirty, but it’s just as common to head back to school at 40 or 50 to complete graduate work as well. Between 1995 and 2005, the number of graduate students aged 40 and over increased 27%, a figure that’s projected to grow even more over the coming decade.
  14. Fourteen percent of online courses are graduate level. That means that one in ten graduate students in the United States will take an online course during the completion of their graduate degree. That’s a huge jump from years previously, due largely to new technology and more prestigious schools jumping onto the online education bandwagon. For students trying to complete their graduate degrees while holding down a full-time job, these kinds of courses can be a god-send, allowing them to more easily balance work, personal commitments and education. Over the next few years as technology improves further and online degrees are more readily accepted, this figure should be significantly higher.