Congratulations! You’re the proud owner of a bachelor’s degree, and now it’s on to the “real world.” Okay, that’s not the case for everyone these days. With a dauntingly low number of jobs available, one way to defer scrounging career listings is to head to grad school. Sounds like the perfect plan, right? Work on your master’s degree, pray the job economy improves while you’re there, and walk out even more qualified for jobs than you were before. As logical as this sounds, though, it might not be the best idea to go straight from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s. Here are some reasons to go out and get a job first, and then fill out those grad school applications:
1. To gain experience
Graduate school admission is pretty competitive: applicants have a wider age range, and you’re battling for a seat in a smaller graduating class. One way to stand out from the crowd is to have a little real-world experience on your résumé. In college, you learn tactics and theories from textbooks and professors, but the real world gives you the most hands-on training when it comes to management, office interaction, organization, and much more. And in such a competitive job market, time spent in a job is exponentially more valuable that just a degree.
2. To keep your money
This isn’t exactly breaking news, but grad school costs a lot! Many students graduate with a bachelor’s, but had to take out loans to do so. If that’s the case, you’ll have to defer those payments, and may even have to take out more loans to pay for grad school. That’s a lot of dough to pay back! Getting a job first enables you to start paying back your undergraduate loans, but also save up to start graduate courses in the future. And here’s an often overlooked hint: many employers will help pay for graduate courses, so keep that in mind as you start your job search.
Related: Best Ways to Save Money in Graduate School
3. To find a definitive career choice
Let’s say you graduate as an English major and go into a master’s program for marketing. What happens if you’re taking courses—or heaven forbid, get your master’s and start a job in the field—and realize you don’t enjoy marketing as much as you expected? You’ve now wasted tuition dollars on courses for a career you don’t want to pursue. Not cool. Working a full-time job before going to grad school enables you to see what career opportunities are out there, feel what it’s like to be in the industry, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s a much smoother—and cheaper—process to change course.
4. To figure out your best option
Don’t feel obligated to get a master’s degree just because it’s a popular choice. After years of working on your career, you may find that there are other options that pertain to your interests and demands. One consideration may be to get a certification instead of a full master’s; the course load isn’t nearly as heavy, it takes less time, and costs less money. Additionally, there are myriad options for online courses that cover not only academic areas, but professional development topics as well (public speaking, management, computer programs, etc.). You could even go the free route and explore massive open online courses (MOOCs). But if you graduate and work at a company where you thrive, you may very well move up the ladder without that added degree—and sometimes, that’s the best option of all.
Related: How to Find a Graduate Program That Fits You
Grad school is a great option for many students, but attending immediately after undergrad doesn’t work for everyone. Make sure you consider all the factors—your potential programs, your career trajectory, and your financial situation—before making an official decision. When and if you do go to grad school, you'll be certain it's the right step in your professional journey.
When you're ready to start exploring your options, use our Graduate School Search tool to find the right program for you.