Graduate students can come straight from undergraduate study or they can be a little bit older after spending some time in industry. No matter what the subject you’ll find a wide variety of graduate student demographics and ages.
According to the OECD, the average age of master’s students is 24 and the average age of PhD entry is 27. In the US the average age of students studying for a graduate degree is 33 years old with a 22% of the graduates being over 40 years old.
In my experience, there has often been a wide variety of ages in grad school. In both my masters and my PhD years I was working alongside some mature age students. No matter the age, I enjoyed working alongside all students who were able to support each other during their studies.
If you are worried that you are too old to enter grad school and return to school, fear not.
As long as you enter your course with an apprentice mindset, do not look down on those who are younger than you, and work collaboratively you will likely have a fantastic time.
If you’d like to watch my YouTube video about this subject you can check it out in the link below.
In this article, we will look at the average age of graduate students and the data presented for master’s and PhD students by universities.
Grad Student Ages – Average ages?
According to some online sources, the average graduate student today is 33 years old, although students in doctoral programs are a bit older on average.
However, the average graduate student in the United States is typically between 22 and 28 years old. There are often 30’s and 40’s around, as well as super-brilliant under-21’s.
Some people decide to go back to university after some time in their careers because through their work or life experience they realise that they need or want an advanced degree to further their careers.
According to the data provided by Louisiana State University, the average age at which a student achieves a masters degree is of over 430 international student advising centres in more than 80 countries, the average age of a US graduate student is 31 years.
Here are some more graphs that will show you the median age of different students in a variety of institutions.
Here is the distribution of students from south-eastern University in 2021.
You’ll notice that there is a bimodal distribution. That is, a number of graduate students are between the ages of 22 and 24 but there is also a peak between 40 and 49.
This is likely due to the fact that the second peak is due to those who have entered a professional career and want a career change or to up-skill in their current role.
The University of British Columbia
The University of British Colombia in Vancouver also presented their 2022 cohort demographic statistics for Masters and PhD students between the ages of 20 and 60.
You can see the results of this in the graph below.
Age at completion of doctoral degree
Lastly, in the table below we have the median age at doctorate for a number of fields and demographic characteristics in the United States of America.
|Median age at doctorate ( years)
|Physical sciences and earth sciences
|Mathematics and computer sciences
|Psychology and social sciences
|Humanities and arts
You can see that the average PhD age for completion is 31.5 in the United States. The US has a much older cohort upon completion because their degrees typically take 5 to 7 years because there is a large coursework component at the beginning of their PhD.
I graduated from my PhD when I was 25. I did my undergraduate which included a Masters year. That means my undergraduate was done in four years. Then, I moved to Australia to do a PhD as an international student which meant I needed to be finished in three years.
Therefore I did my undergraduate, masters, PhD in seven years total. That is pretty much as fast as anyone can do it.
However, it is not a race and some people benefit greatly from taking their time, doing part or all of their education part-time, or waiting until they are financially stable before returning to their studies.
Why People Wait to Get Graduate Degrees
There are a number of reasons why people wait to get graduate degrees.
For many, it’s a matter of finishing up their undergraduate degree and taking some time to transition into the workforce before then re-enrolling in a graduate program to improve skills that they can then use to access higher pay scales in their current role.
For others, it’s a question of work experience – they want to be sure they’re making the most of their time and earning potential before going back to school.
And for the majority of students, it’s simply a question of finances. College is expensive, and many students graduate with a lot of debt. Going back to school for a graduate degree can add even more debt to that total.
But there are also plenty of people who go back to school for their graduate degree right after finishing their undergraduate degree. For some, it’s a matter of getting into the program they really want or earning a higher salary. For others, it’s simply a passion for learning. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of people who choose to go back to school immediately after finishing their undergraduate degree.
Will graduate schools care how old you are?
Graduate schools may care about your age if you’re an undergrad student applying to a graduate program. Sometimes a graduate program requires some professional experience so that you can get the most out of your program.
If you have work experience, your age may not be as important to admission committees. However, if you’re exploring a new field or degree, your advisor or the admissions committee may feel that your age puts you at a disadvantage.
In science programs, for example, research experience is often a requirement for admission, and mature students may have an easier time completing this requirement. Some programs also prefer or require that their students be of a certain age range. Your advisor can tell you more about the requirements of specific programs.
Are you too old for a graduate degree?
The answer is no, you are never too old to get a graduate degree. In fact, according to National Center for Education Statistics, the average age of graduate students is 33 years old.
This means that 1 in 5 students is over the age of 40!
So don’t worry, there are plenty of people in your situation.
Just remember that grad school is not for everyone, so make sure you really think about what you want to get out of it before making a decision.
You can be any age and still get a graduate degree. There are many benefits to getting a graduate degree, such as improved job prospects and increased earnings potential. If you are thinking about going back to school, then you should definitely consider getting a graduate degree.
This article has been through everything you need to know about a typical graduate student age and has presented some data for various institution’s graduate students.
Ultimately, as long as graduate school is something that you see value in and you are willing to spend the time, money, and effort in getting your next qualification it could be a valuable addition to your CV.