The decision is ultimately influenced by a myriad of concerns and there is often no one right answer. Whether to pursue these programs will frequently involve a case-by-case analysis of a candidate’s particular career path and objectives.
Are master’s degrees a requirement?
There are some professions in which a master’s degree is specifically required in order to get professional certification and credentials essential to work in the field. These include fields such as law, and medicine. Furthermore, candidates who intend to teach or carry out research, especially at the graduate and postgraduate levels, need advanced degrees.
The value of a master’s degree
Recent research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates the value of advanced degrees. Employments within those professions, which require master degrees, are projected to grow the fastest between now and 2022.
Furthermore, according to research from the BLS, the higher the level of education for those individuals who are 25 and older, better their job and salary prospects. The median weekly earnings for someone with a master’s degree in 2013 were $1,329, versus $1,108 for a bachelor’s degree and $777 for an associate degree.
In addition, the median unemployment rate for a master’s degree holder was 3.4 percent in 2013, compared to 4.0 percent for a bachelor’s and 5.4 percent for an associate degree holder.
These numbers were even better in both categories for those with professional or doctoral degrees.
The arguments in favor of waiting
1. You’re confused
Ah, another nerve-wracking conundrum! There are many recent graduates who don’t have a clear idea about what the next step is for them; it’s a normal and very common feeling that many individuals deal with. It may be tempting to jump straight into a graduate program to buy yourself some more time to figure out what exactly it is that you want. However, this isn’t an advisable option. Graduate programs are very expensive and should only be pursued if you are sure about your career goals and aspirations. As journalist Frances Bridges wrote in her article Why You Shouldn’t Go To Grad School - ‘going to grad school is a very expensive way to ask for directions. There is nothing wrong with being lost for a while.’
2. Work experience can benefit you
There are certain advantages to waiting until you gather significant work experience. Often times, getting a job and experiencing how its like provides an increased context for the importance of the material you studied. Moreover, once in the workplace, an employer might even assist with tuition when you decide to pursue your masters.
3. Fund your own studies
Earning money may also help you fund your own studies. This could save you the headache and hassle of trying to apply for scholarships and hounding your parents for money.
4. It’ll give you some breathing room
Your undergraduate degree may have been grueling, demanding, and at the end of the day, quite tiring. Maybe you need a break to recover from all the relentless studying. You could take time off and travel or get a job and gain some experience. That way, when you do decide to do your masters, you’ll come to it refreshed.
The arguments in favor of doing your masters now
1. You’re still in student mode
On the other hand, in certain cases, it may be very advisable to do a masters fresh out of undergrad. Why? Because you’re still in the education mode. You’re accustomed to putting in all-nighters, spending every waking hour in the library, and having no social life outside of hanging out with your textbooks. With degrees, which are heavily laden with difficult and conceptual courses such as the sciences and math, students may do well to begin their master’s degree as soon as possible. That way, you’re in the right framework to be dealing with demanding course loads and subjects.
2. If you wait, you may have commitments and obligations to consider
Coming back to graduate school may also prove to be very difficult for those who are now working full-time jobs and supporting families. Getting back into the grind of the lifestyle of a student can be very difficult - you’ll have to quit your job, reacclimate to a grad student budget, and make other significant lifestyle changes. As a fresh graduate, you’ll find the energy and motivation to complete a master’s program more easily; you’ll still be in the habit of going to classes, doing homework and assignments and studying for exams.
3. Availability of scholarships
As a fresh graduate, it will be easier to ask schools for a scholarship. Furthermore, good academic records will alert potential scholarship awarding bodies about you as a potential candidate for a scholarship.
4. Clear cut goals and targets
Jumping into a master’s degree program right away offers candidates the opportunity to embark on a directed path in pursuit of their career goals. It also has the benefit of providing candidates with a number of career opportunities and useful skills. For instance, students may get industry exposure from interactions with professors and speakers who work in that particular field, as well as from the career guidance team and fellow students.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to pursue a master’s degree right after you graduate or after you acquire some work experience is a personal decision. It is influenced by a number of considerations, which are unique to you and your career aspirations. When attempting to make this decision, take some time to carefully determine what your goals are. Then, accordingly, weigh the pros and cons of doing a master’s immediately, or after you’ve worked for a while.