Get a job or go to graduate school?

By Israel Hernandez

As college seniors begin their last semester as undergrads, they’re taking a large sigh of well-earned relief. But that moment of calm may be short-lived, as many college seniors will soon face another challenge: deciding whether to begin the job search or go to graduate school. Here are some tips that can help with the decision.

1. Research your field

When deciding if you should find a job right away or pursue a Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Science (M.S.), Master of Business Administration (MBA), or Ph.D, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will my dream job require postgraduate education? Ideally, you want to ask yourself this question prior to graduation; the earlier the better. This will give you more time to begin the research, look into different programs, and prepare for graduate school requirements like the GRE and letters of recommendation.
  • Is my field competitive? Identify where you want to live and the job you want, then ask yourself if your current education level and/or work experience will make you competitive in this market. The answer can have a big impact on your decision.
  • Is there potential for advancement/growth in my career? You may find that a master's degree immediately puts you a position or two higher than those with a bachelor’s, but for many careers a bachelor’s degree and work experience will be enough to continue to advance.

2. Network with peers, mentors, and professionals

Engage with your professors, students in your program, and professionals currently working in your desired field. Learn from other people’s experience. There is nothing wrong with approaching a company to seek information about your ideal position. Ask them what they look for in a candidate, such as education, work experience, skills, etc. You can do this regardless of their hiring status!

3. Do a cost-benefit analysis

As you evaluate the option of attending graduate school, ask yourself what will get you further in your field: more work experience or an advanced degree? In some fields, extensive work experience may trump a master’s degree, in others, the opposite is true. If you’re unsure as to whether a postgraduate education is necessary in your desired career path, spend a few hours doing a job search and check out the requirements in the postings.

4. Work full-time and go to grad school

More people are choosing to have a full-time job and go to graduate school at the same time. Achieving an MBA, M.A., M.S., or PH.D. is a huge accomplishment. Though it may be difficult, the benefits often outweigh the costs. It may help to talk to someone who has already done it, so ask your friends, parents, teachers, and your school's job search center.

Whether you pursue your graduate degree or begin looking for work right away, each path will come with its own unique set of risks and rewards. Planning ahead and carefully weighing the pros and cons will help you make the best choice.

Whatever you decide, find your perfect opportunity with our job and internship search.

About the author

Israel HernandezIsrael is a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. He is a ground intelligence specialist stationed in San Diego. He loves surfing, breweries, and going to local shows. In fall 2016 he will be transferring to San Diego State University as a junior and will be earning a Bachelor of Science in health communications. With his degree, he hopes to work as a public health advocate.