A Choice Between Paths – Grad School or Work

by sysop in From Campus to Career

Decision between two paths

by Liz Hine

The end of your undergraduate education is in sight, and the big question looming ahead is: what next? Do you decide to brave the unknown (and uncertain job market) and enter the workforce, or postpone some of those decisions by extending your education into graduate school? If you just spend a couple of minutes searching for “Work or Graduate School” online, you’ll come up with a number of articles like this one, and you’ll find that you’re not alone in asking these questions. The simple truth is that there’s no black and white answer to this question.

As you are evaluating your options, it’s good to think critically about your options. Ask questions, such as Peterson’s list of Basic Considerations, including understanding why you really want to go to graduate school and weighing the costs and benefits of your decision.

Graduate school is an expensive place to figure out what you’d like to do with your life. If you’re uncertain about your career path, or unsure if a higher level degree is necessary for that career, think twice before committing to a program that may or may not be helpful for you in the long-run.

I made the mistake of not thoroughly evaluating the program I was considering after I graduated. I chose a Masters of Communications degree, because I thought the program’s emphasis on Organizational Communication and Conflict Management would be interesting. Little did I know, they were phasing out those classes from the program during my first semester.

What was left was a Rhetoric-based Communication Program for which I was woefully unprepared. Not only did this degree no longer meet my career goals; but as a Business major stepping into this program, I struggled to keep up with my Communication and Philosophy counterparts. Thankfully, I was able to correct my mistake by switching into a different program that better met my needs. Looking back, I probably would have benefited by taking a few years to work and better understand my path. Who knows? Maybe I would have skipped the MBA and done an MA in Human Resources instead!

My advice to you, as you evaluate these tough questions for yourself is:

  • To think through your career aspirations and evaluate all of the options to get you from where you are to where you want to be
  • Talk to people who are currently working in that field and ask how they got their start
  • Think about the opportunity cost of doing graduate school alone, while working, or not at all
  • Commit to a lifetime of learning – whether you are in school or not

These remarks were originally posted on Free The Future on November 8, 2012.