This spring is not an ideal time to graduate from college. At a time when the economy is still stagnant and student debt is on the rise, finding a secure entry-level job is a difficult proposition even for students who have good grades and hail from good schools. While a college grad can likely find part-time work in a coffee shop or a low-paid internship at a firm, getting a “career job” is an increasingly difficult feat to accomplish these days, at least straight out of school. Consequently, recent grads are often faced with low wage rates, high debt payments, and a good deal of future uncertainty.
If you’re current a college senior, you probably know this fully well. You may have started applying for jobs and even going for interviews, meaning that by this point you’ve realized the competitiveness of the market. Without connections, a strong resume, and an eye to reputation management it’s hard to land on your feet, especially if you pursued a humanities major while in college.
But you may be simultaneously considering another post-grad path: graduate school. Whether you would go for one year to get a masters or seven to earn a PhD, graduate school can provide you with the tools needed to hone your strengths, improve your credentials, and ultimately land a job in your desired field. Some people have called a graduate degree the “new college diploma” because many employers now see it as a prerequisite for entry work. Moreover, while graduate programs can be highly competitive, they are often easier to pursue than a job in today’s economy. But there are two key catches: first, grad school can be expensive and can put you even further into student debt; second, unless you’re headed to medical school it does not guarantee a job upon graduation.
So what should the college senior do? Enter the workforce or go to graduate school? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of each path:
Pros of Graduate School
-Shelters you from the job market while the economy improves
-Provides the skills necessary to specialize in a given field
-Helps you differentiate yourself in a crowded hiring process
-Gives you time to pursue your interests and strengthen your resume
Cons of Graduate School
-As aforementioned, does not promise a job upon graduation
-May double your student debt if you do a longer program
-Forces you to forgo earnings you could have acquired from working
-A waste of time if you do not enjoy your field of pursuit
-Employees want to see that you went to grad school for a reason, not simply to shelter yourself from the economy
As you can see, there are definite pros and cons of attending graduate school. The best route to take, ultimately, depends on your individual situation. If you cannot secure employment, hold a humanities degree, have a narrow pre-professional interest, and have the means to pay, then graduate school is an excellent option to pursue. If, on the other hand, you have no strong interests and would need to take out substantial loans, you may want to take the plunge and enter the job market instead.
Ultimately, keep this in mind: while a low-wage, undesirable job may not be ideal, it is no worse than losing money to attend a graduate program in which you do not have a passion. At the end of the day, what you want to do with your life still matters, no matter how dismal hiring may be. Can you see yourself in grad school? What job do you want? What employment can you gain without a post-secondary degree? These are all important questions to ask yourself as you move forward at this important juncture in your life.
Samantha Peters enjoys researching and thinking about career and education related topics. A graduate of University of San Diego, she regularly writes for www.theeducationupdate.com and www.wehelpwomen.com/blog.