Some phrases about the working world get bandied about so much I think I know what they mean, but often don't. You know, like how being a grad student meant you don't have benefits, or how if you went corporate you might get perks. Yeah. What does that mean anyhow?
I'll just compare grad school to my job at the bank- no two jobs could be easier to contrast, so here we go. As a grad student, my health insurance was paid for and I felt pretty righteous about pulling in a modest stipend. No amount of working more or less, taking time off or not would really influence my pay. I didn't pay into social security, unemployment or have any retirement benefits.
As a entry level teller, if I worked full time, would make the same modest income. I could get health insurance, and I automatically get a 401K (with 2% matching. It's like they pay me 102%!). I pay into all those entitlement programs like social security and unemployment, so my modest salary is a more modest take home. Oh, and I work for bonuses- I get referral bonuses, and we get quarterly performance bonuses. I can request Paid Time Off- I say I am not coming, they keep paying me, and no on makes me feel guilty for not working for a couple days. This is probably less total time then a grad student can get away with taking off before you have to have some serious talk about it though. My hours are set. There are on-boarding training programs to complete, and further training I can opt into to move up the promotion scale. At the bank, I dress nice every day.
In grad school, my hours were whenever, and the training I did was up to me. I dressed nice for talks, and I dressed like an Eskimo for the cold-room. And however hard all that failure was, I was expected to find my own way to whatever student services I might need (health center, counseling, advising whatever).
At the bank, something bad, of an abrupt, illegal nature happened. I fully expected my coworkers to be really supportive with each other about it, but I was surprised that lots of people from corporate have gone out of their way to make sure we are ok. They sent a counselor on-site, there is a 1-800 number to call for anonymous counseling services 24 hours a day. Sure, it might just be part of their soul-less corporate strategy to put caring-like tools in place to support their employees in their growth. It makes me think that taking a corporate job wouldn't be all bad in the long run...
Oh, and since my branch is also the site of the regional training center, I still get occasional post-workshop free food too.