You may be wondering why I chose the title above for this particular blog when those who are reading are not even in graduate school yet. I’m glad you asked! As I have mentioned before, preparing for a graduate program and entering the program are not cakewalks. So, you may be having second thoughts about pursuing it or maybe you’re stuck between two choices: graduate school or entering the workforce. If so, I found this really neat article that may help you decide. Check it out!
I graduated from undergrad when I was 22. I graduated from my master’s program at 24. I am currently 26 and in the third year of my doctoral degree. I am the definition of the dreaded “professional student” who has skipped the workforce and has continued to matriculate through numerous degrees WITHOUT a single break. You may ask why I chose to not enter the workforce or take a break, and there is really one simple answer.
Each time I applied to a program, there were funding opportunities available for me to attend school tuition free, with fellowships, and with stipends to top the deal. For me, it was a simple decision. I continued to go to school because I was able to do so financially. Although funding was a big part of the decision, I should have considered all the pros and cons of skipping the workforce. Now in hindsight, I can share the good and the bad.
-School is exhausting. I’ve not given myself anytime between degrees to just let things absorb mentally and release all of the stresses that come along with higher education. At times it can be very tiring. It may have been good to at least take a semester off.
-Plenty of time to transition into academic life. I plan to finish before I’m 30, this will give me plenty of time to make decisions about my academic future, whether I decide to teach or do research, and I even have the option of taking a break once I’m finished. I feel like I’ve given myself a cushion to make crucial decisions concerning my future.
Ultimately, any route you take to higher education should be based on your own wants and needs. Take the time to consider the pros and cons. If your considering going back for your Ph.D and you’ve been in the workforce, I strongly encourage you to do so! Especially if there are readily available funding opportunities Honestly, looking back on it now, I wouldn’t have changed a thing!
A PDF of the post can be found here: Blog Post 1 – Grad school vs workforce
A shot from Waikiki Beach during a Hawaii recruiting trip in Fall 2011. Photo taken by Stephanie Nguyen.
I remember asking this question to different people–alums, faculty, and advisers– when I was a senior in undergrad. Each answer I received was different from another. In other words, there isn’t a right answer to this question, and it really depends on a few factors:
- The industry/field you are interested in actually NEEDS people with professional/higher degrees.
- If you want to teach in college.
- If you want to contribute original academic research.
- How burnt out you are from school (and yes, this is a factor!)
So the best answer for me was entering into the workforce. I had a great time in college–I double majored (marketing and piano performance); I studied abroad; and I was very involved in clubs and student government. But by senior year, I was a pretty burnt out. To me, the idea of doing two to seven more years of school was as dreadful as getting my teeth pulled at the dentist.
I worked three years for my alma mater as an admissions counselor, and boy, did I have a lot of fun! A few things I loved about working:
- There’s no homework!
- You get paid for your work!
- Saving (or spending) your new found paycheck!
- You can focus on your hobbies!
- Traveling on the company’s dime!
- Meeting new people!
Besides having fun, I learned professional skills like supervising, advising, and budgeting. Most importantly, I learned more about myself both as a person and as a professional. Personally, I used my free time to become a half-marathoner runner and to volunteer in the community. Professionally, I realized that my passions lay in interacting and advising undergraduate students as well as understanding the process of running a university. So, with the help of my current boss at the time, I decided that I was ready to apply for a master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs.
So, I am a big proponent of working before going to graduate school. To summarize, working for a few years will help you find direction in your life. It will help you figure out if you truly want to go back to graduate school, and possibly help you figure out which academic field is the best fit for you. Also, taking a few years off from school will help you appreciate academics more when you do go back to school. Of course, having a paycheck doesn’t hurt as well! Ultimately, though, this is a choice you must weigh based on many different factors of your life and your career goals.