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The struggle between choosing grad-school or job experience

Rachel Dushkewich, Crier Staff

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As April winds to a close, so closes yet another school year that passed lightning-fast. As I’m a rising senior, excitement mixes with utter dread as I contemplate my life one year from now. From conversations with friends and acquaintances, I take a certain solace in knowing that I am not the only one, concerned? Thrilled? Petrified? about needing to step into the “real world” faster than I ever imagined.

The biggest question I hear tossed about is whether it is more beneficial, more “pragmatic,” to enter the job market or continue with graduate studies. No one can answer this question but the individual. Drawbacks and benefits exist for both paths, but each student (not career services, not an advisor, not parents) must act as an adult and choose the path that fits them.

Certainly, one obvious benefit of entering the job market is that, well, jobs pay you! Earning a steady salary immediately after graduation can help students repay loans and begin an independent life out of their parents’ house. It can provide opportunities to start an investment portfolio and begin building a personal nest-egg.

Even if a graduate degree is the ultimate goal, this financial security can make funding and embarking on the graduate school journey easier for some students.

Moreover, some argue that real-world job experience proves more valuable to future employers than merely a graduate degree. According to Carol Sacchetti of Career Services, some employers see students without internships or real-world job experience as “over-educated and under-experienced;” no longer does a graduate degree guarantee future employment, and such a degree should not be pursued for merely that reason. Furthermore, as Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees become more and more common, real-world experience can distinguish applications for future jobs and graduate school.

Furthermore, entering the job market allows students time to mature and reflect, especially if they feel unsure about their future career plans. It can allow them to explore, first-hand, a field in which they show interest. It allows them to earn money while they decide if this current job really fits them, or whether graduate school or a different career is instead for them. Certainly, then, many students may benefit from entering the job market before or instead of graduate school.

Continuing to graduate school immediately after completing undergraduate studies has its pragmatic benefits, too – provided that the student has a somewhat clear sense of what studies they wish to pursue. Forgive me for stating the obvious: the job market, though recovering, is not pretty. If a student knows that graduate school his or her ultimate goal, it may make more sense to continue with education (and thereby defer student loans) rather than begin a long, difficult search for a job that they know will be temporary.

On a similar note, many jobs provide higher starting salaries to applicants with advanced degrees. Finally, if a desired career path requires many years of study beyond the undergraduate level, it perhaps behooves the student to begin immediately towards their ultimate goal. Beyond these considerations, though, graduate studies can prove intellectually stimulating and become paths to maturation in their own right.

As an English geek, I know that I will completely and utterly relish studying literature at the graduate level for its own sake.

Strict pragmatism aside for a moment, graduate school, like our time at Saint Anselm College, does not necessarily need to “do something for us” in terms of immediate job placement. Though not said nearly often enough, something can be said for learning and self-betterment for its own sake. Though I certainly do not claim it to be the only path towards personal fulfillment, for certain students (myself included, I think) it may be the best path for their own personal journey.

As my advisor and I discuss the realities of graduate school and future careers, she consistently tells me to “above all, trust your gut!” Faculty advisors, parents, and career services can all be invaluable tools to help us discover what lies ahead, but only each of us as individuals can decide where life takes us. Job experience and graduate studies can both enrich our personal journeys and provide fundamentally different ways to grow financially, career-wise, and personally; but, what “works” for one person may not work for another. One particular path is not the generally correct one. As we prepare to say goodbye to the class of 2013 and the class of 2014 rises as seniors, I wish everyone a hearty “good luck” in the exciting lives that lie ahead for all of us!

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The struggle between choosing grad-school or job experience