Being A Grad Student Doesn’t Happen Right Away: When Should You Go?

How Old Are Grad Students?

The graduate student population has been profoundly growing in the past two decades, and it will continue rising in the 21st century. Changes are evident in overall student demographics, as there are new market demands in different social sectors.

While these changes may vary from one state to another, it might be difficult to pinpoint each of these grad students’ exact age, gender, or race.

How old are grad students? According to National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey data, the average graduate student in the United States is 33 years old, and 20% of all graduate students are in their 40s.

In this article, you will learn the average age of many graduate students and some details about pursuing a graduate degree in the future.

What Is a Graduate Student?

This is pretty straightforward. A graduate student is someone who has earned a bachelor’s degree. They are people who pursue additional education in a specific field they find interesting.

Graduate Degrees

When it comes to graduate degrees, more than 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities offer different programs that lead to graduate courses in a wide range of fields.

The two main categories of graduate degrees that are available in the United States are the master’s degree and the doctoral degree.

Both of these graduate degrees consist of a combination of research and coursework. Graduate degrees are characterized by in-depth training in the subject matter.

Study and education are more self-directed at the graduate level compared to the undergraduate level.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree provides students with an education and training specializing in a specific branch or field. It can be academic, for instance, master of arts or master of science.

It can also be professional, like a master of business administration, master of fine arts, master of social work, or master of education.

Some programs might offer a thesis or non-thesis option. This generally requires only one to three years of additional study on the selected field beyond the bachelor’s degree.

Doctoral Degree

When a student decides to get their doctoral degree, this means that they are preparing to be a college faculty member and a research scholar. This can also be applied to looking for other careers that require more advanced knowledge and research skills.

It can be academic, like a doctor of philosophy, or professional, as a doctor of education or a business administration doctor. This degree typically requires that all candidates pass a comprehensive examination and complete original research that can lead to a dissertation.

There are also professional degree programs that lead to licensure in different specialized fields like law or medicine. Most programs require prerequisite coursework.

A good example is if you are entering medical school and have a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. You will be able to enter as long as you finish a significant amount of courses in the biological sciences, chemistry, mathematics, and social sciences.

Average Graduate Student Age

You might be surprised to learn that today’s average graduate student is 33 years old, and some students in doctoral programs are a bit older.

Surprisingly, the average student back in the 1990s was just a bit under 33 years old. In fact, the Council of Graduate Schools says that graduate students’ age has remained the same over the last few decades.

There might not be an increase in age, but there is a huge rise in non-traditional students. This means that fewer returning students are choosing traditional brick-and-mortar education.

Some opt for evening classes, part-time schooling, summer courses, or online degree programs.

The Reason They Wait to Get Graduate Degrees

The simple reason why people wait to get their graduate degrees is that they are tired after coming out of a bachelor’s program. Most students take longer periods to earn an undergraduate degree.

According to studies, only half of the students graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years, and the other half don’t graduate at all.

In the end, they are burned out, and after all that debt, many people want to get out of the education system for a while. In addition, going into college or any university is a singularly unbalanced lifestyle.

Many choose to not continue with their studies after getting their undergraduate degrees. Instead, they start looking for a job.

Still, many experts agree that society is transitioning from an industry-based economy to a knowledge-based one. Having a graduate degree has become the professional standard, and people go back to school to upskill and be more competitive.

People who have a master’s degree usually earn more annually than those who have only bachelor’s degrees.

Attracting Returning Grad Students

Many non-traditional schools are trying their best to come up with better opportunities for returning grad students. They offer online and evening classes, and they have designed specific programs that can help learners age 55 and over.

However, these students tend to take selected courses and are not enrolled in degree programs. Some schools have even started day-care and evening child care services for non-traditional students.


Overall, the average age of grad students will spike in the coming years. As the world evolves, so do people. They are learning to adapt to increasing job opportunities.

This relates to the old saying that age does not matter as long as you put your heart and soul into it. Finishing a bachelor’s degree is not easy, and you can expect that completing a master’s degree or a doctoral degree is not easy, either.

Go with your gut, regardless of your age, and explore every possible field you find interesting.

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