Which is Better – Going for that Master’s or Getting Work Experience?
This is the question that most college seniors are asking themselves right now. And there is no universal answer to this question, for there are so many factors to consider when making such a choice. The wisest approach is to look at your specific situation in light of the many factors listed below, so that you have a clear picture of the pros and cons for your pending decision
Your Burn-Out Factor
People have varying degrees of tolerance for being students. Some are anxious to get their educations over with and get on with their lives. At the other end of this spectrum are those who love being “professional students,” earning more than one Bachelor’s and then moving onto graduate school and being perfectly content with life as a student. In the middle sits the majority – those who enjoy school and learning but who also have near-term goals that include career employment. Only you know yourself! Can you tolerate and/or enjoy another 1 ½ years of schooling after the 4 you have just completed? If your answer is “yes,” then by all means seriously consider grad school. If the answer is “I’m not sure,” then perhaps you are better having a gap year or two before you return to school.
Your Financial Situation
If you are deeply in debt getting this Bachelor’s degree, you know that, unless you are able to get a teaching assistantship (and these are usually reserved for doctoral students) or a scholarship, you will be significantly adding to that loan debt by going on to graduate school now. At the same time, while you are in school, your loans are deferred, and perhaps you will get a much higher-paying position with that Master’s and actually be able to pay off the debt faster. How much debt can you tolerate is a good question to ask yourself.
The law of supply and demand works in the job market just as it does in all other facets of our economy. When there is a glut of elementary school teachers, for example, the demand is low, jobs are scarce, and pay tends to be stagnant. You need to take a long hard look at the employment prospects in your field and determine if you can be really competitive in your job market or not. If not, then you may have to resign yourself to taking a job outside of your career field, a least temporarily, until the prospects improve. There are a lot of starving lawyers out there, as well as business majors, and those with degrees in liberal arts and humanities may find themselves working in restaurants and retail establishments. If employment prospects are not good, pursuing a Master’s degree may be a better choice. On the other hand, taking any position may be preferable if you are unsure of what specifically you wish to pursue in terms of graduate work. Take some time, and look at all of your options. You may decide to get another Bachelor’s in an entirely different field and then go on for a Master’s.
What Your Major Field Requires
Some majors can terminate at the Bachelor degree level, and career positons are available. Education majors can move into the job market right out of school, and most will have a good shot at employment, in both public and private schools. It is estimated that fully 50% of those teachers in the classroom today will be retiring over the next 5 years, so future prospects are good. Accounting majors may find immediate employment, especially if they can pass the CPA exam; those with majors in nursing, and some other health and fitness related careers have good prospects; dietary science is also a good field for those who terminate at the Bachelor’s level. Certain areas of computer science, sales and marketing will also result in good employment opportunities.
Other majors, however, will require a Master’s degree even for entry level positions. Business majors need an MBA; sociology and psychology majors must get Masters’ degrees if they intend to practice in their field with any organization; even art history majors, who are looking for employment in galleries or museums had better plan on graduate school; library science is another field in which a Master’s is almost a must. Hard sciences - biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, geology, etc. – only scratch the surface at the undergraduate level, and students in these fields who wish any kind of good employment with research facilities, corporations, etc., will have to complete a graduate degree at least at the Master’s level. Even engineers, who once found career positions quickly are now discovering that they are not competitive without graduate work under their belts!
So, it all comes down to these 4 factors, as you weigh your options and make your choices. For some of you, moving right into employment is the most attractive and practical option; others of you may choose to move into employment and pursue graduate work on a part-time basis or to work for a year or two before returning to school; still others will move, without hesitation into a Master’s program. In the end, you are the only one who can make this choice, and, fortunately, these choices can always be reversed!
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