What is the Average Age of a Graduate Student?

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Updated June 3, 2021

People returning to college after a hiatus to get a graduate degree might wonder what is the average age of a graduate student. Other considerations based on the answer to that question may affect the success of a returning student. Some colleges have a higher proportion of older students than they did ten years ago and speculate that graduate students are older today than they use to be. Whether that seems to be the case depends upon which factors you examine.

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How Old is the Average Graduate Student?

The average graduate student today is 33 years old. Students in doctoral programs are a bit older. However, the average graduate student in the late 1990's was just under 33 years. In fact, according to the Council of Graduate Schools, the age of graduate students has remained static over the last few decades. While there is no increase in age, there is an increase in non-traditional students. That is, according to the Council of Graduate Schools' data, fewer returning students are choosing brick-and-mortar traditional educations. So, the question might not be: What is the average age of a graduate student? Now the question might be: What is the average age of a grad student in a traditional college program as opposed to those enrolled in evening, part-time, summer or online degree program? That age is definitely on the rise.

Why Do People Wait to Get Graduate Degrees?

Some people are just dead-tired coming out of a four-year bachelor's program. They are burned out. Forbes Magazine states that the four-year program isn't a reality for the majority. Most students take longer than that to earn undergraduate degrees. In fact, according to Forbes, only 58 percent of students graduate with a bachelor's degree within six years. Many don't graduate at all. After all that time, and all that debt, many people just want to get out of the education system for a while. In addition, college is a singularly unbalanced lifestyle. Many people leave college after they get their undergraduate degrees so that they might start families and get work experience. Still, most experts agree that our society has transitioned from an industry-based economy to a knowledge-based one. The graduate degree is now the professional standard and people go back to school to upgrade their skills and make them more competitive. People with master's degrees earn $10,000 more annually than those with bachelor's degrees.

What Types of Non-Traditional Educational Opportunities Attract Returning Grad Students?

Many brick-and-mortar schools are introducing online and evening-class components. At the extreme of the age gamut, some schools, like Brookhaven College in Texas, have designed entire programs for learners 55 and over. These students, however, tend to be taking selected courses and not enrolled in degree programs. Some schools have started day-care and evening child care services for non-traditionals. Online graduate degree programs offer the most flexibility for working adult students. In addition, there are scholarships that target non-traditional students.

Related Resource: Online Master's in Nursing Degree

There seems to be no age limit for returning to school to get a better education. Though most graduate students are in their early thirties, it is clearly never too late to return to school and better your life. There may be an average age for a graduate student, but there is no age cap.

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