The Benefits of Graduate Education

Check out this 2021 report about the impact of graduate education and research in Virginia!

Traditionally, the focus in Virginia higher education has been on undergraduate education. However, graduate education has long been—and is rapidly becoming even more of—an integral part of the overall mission of almost all of Virginia’s colleges and universities.

The Commonwealth’s programs of graduate education are central to realizing Virginia’s vision of becoming a first-tier state in the U.S. technology arena, as well as central to Virginia’s goal of securing a worldwide place of leadership in the information age (Graduate Education in Virginia, VCGS, 1999). Consider the following:

Did you Know?

Virginia graduate students serve in a variety of capacities throughout the Commonwealth, the United States, and the world. Their research is transforming lives and their talent is serving the public in countless ways. For example, did you know that a Virginia graduate student:

  • Invented a mechanical leech that outperformed live medicinal leeches used for more than 3,000 years.

  • Won a Nobel Prize in physics for discovering how helium-3 can transform itself into a liquid that flows without friction at temperatures near absolute zero.

  • Currently serves as the secretary of health and human resources for the commonwealth of Virginia.

  • Invented novel supercapacitors with applications in renewable energy generation and electric vehicles.

  • Flew on the space shuttle Discovery and another served twice as the scientific astronaut with the space shuttle Columbia.

  • Developed a hearing aid that uses magnetic waves to transmit vibrations.

  • Served as the first U.S. Department of Agriculture’s under secretary for food safety.

  • Served as director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory.

  • Exhibited at a cutting-edge European art center in London with works symbolizing mysteries of Central Virginia, entitled “Madison’s Cave” after a historic limestone cave in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • Designed a software application that runs on mobile devices that actively link doctors and patients.

  • Patented a process to improve manufacture of nanometer-scale silicon chips.

  • Discovered an unpublished poem by Sylvia Plath.

  • Reconstructs the development of forests using geographic information systems and analysis of tree rings, maps and other documentary evidence to show how people interact with forests and respond to environmental change.

The Future of Virginia

  • Professional and graduate programs attract and retain high-tech, research and development, health care, transportation, military and new-growth markets and companies.

  • Virginia’s graduate schools produce the next generation of leaders in academia, industry, and government.

  • New discoveries, technologies, patents, and inventions developed through university-sponsored research and graduate programs contribute directly to Virginia’s economic growth and reputation.

  • In the 2004 presidential election, more than 80 percent of U.S. citizens with a master’s degree or higher reported voting, compared to less than 60 percent of U.S. citizens with a high school diploma.

  • Half the economic growth over the last half-century has been a result of technological innovation, scientific discovery, and knowledge creation (NDEA 21: A Renewed Commitment to Graduate Education, CGS, 2005).

Economic Benefits of a Skilled Workforce

  • Average lifetime earnings for doctoral degree recipients are between 2.5 and 3 times higher than average lifetime earnings for high school graduates. Average lifetime earnings for professional degree recipients are even higher.

  • Virginia graduate students contribute countless hours of community service worth millions of dollars through internships, practica, and volunteer work.

  • A graduate degree is becoming increasingly necessary for Virginians to enter their fields of choice. For example, in teacher education and accounting, the entry-level degree has risen from the bachelor’s to the master’s degree.

  • Approximately 70 percent of all in-state and out-of-state graduate students remain in Virginia after graduating, contributing to the Commonwealth’s workforce and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in state taxes annually.

  • Contributions to Virginia’s Educational System

  • Licensure, certificate, and graduate degree programs in education are essential to enhancing the quality of K-12 and community college educational systems in Virginia.

  • Graduate students are the future high school principals, school system superintendents, and administrators of our community college and higher education systems.

  • Quality graduate programs enhance the recruitment and retention of top faculty and scholars in our state universities.

Addressing Virginia’s Challenges

Graduate and professional education is essential to solving Virginia’s most pressing economic and social problems:

  • Transportation-Logistics

  • Environment-Clean Energy

  • Healthcare-Biomedical

  • IT Services

  • Teaching

Why is investment in graduate education a good choice for Virginians?

  • Graduate education plays a vital role in enhancing the health and future of Virginia.

  • Graduate degree programs are the lifeblood of Virginia’s education system.

  • Graduate education supports Virginia’s businesses and is crucial in attracting new business growth to the Commonwealth.

  • Graduate programs produce a worthwhile return on the state monies invested in them.

  • Virginians who hold advanced degrees are very likely to secure professional employment within Virginia and make economic and cultural contributions to the Commonwealth.