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Get a Job or Go to Grad School? 3 Tips to Help You Make Your Decision

If you are unsure if you should apply to grad school this application cycle, here are a few advantages and drawbacks to consider before you make your decision.
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So, you're almost finished with undergrad, or maybe you want to pivot into a different field. Pursuing a graduate degree can offer a plethora of advantages, but it can also come with its fair share of drawbacks. 

Only you can understand the intricacies of your current situation and whether it makes academic, professional, and financial sense to pursue an advanced degree. However, if you are unsure if you should apply to grad school this application cycle, here are a few factors to consider. 



Pursuing a master’s degree can renew your vocational passion.

If you've been in the workforce for a couple of years and want to reignite what made you pursue your undergrad in the first place, pursuing a graduate degree might be right for you.

Having a specialized knowledge will give you a competitive edge in the job market.

While in a master's program, you will have access to resources, research opportunities, and equipment exclusively available for graduate students. These resources will allow you to pursue awards, network with other professionals, and work directly with your professors. It can also make sense to lean into higher education during an impending economic downturn.

Graduate programs offer unique networking opportunities.

Being a part of a smaller graduate cohort means you will most likely develop more meaningful relationships with fellow graduate students and your supervising professors. Your graduate program might have an extensive alumni network that can help with post-grad job placement and graduate-specific programs to ensure job placement.  



Graduate school is expensive.

The average yearly tuition at a public university is $30,000, not counting the cost of books, moving, and living expenses at your potential university. Additionally, graduate students are not eligible to receive a Pell Grant. However, you may qualify for other government loans. 

If you're graduating undergrad with loans, adding on an additional investment may prevent you from focusing entirely on your graduate program, making your academic performance suffer. 

Your life will be on pause for 2+ years.

You will be entrenched in your academic work, with little time for anything else. While pursuing a master's can give you specialized, invaluable skill sets, it can also delay the hands-on experience you may gain in the workforce. 

Some part-time master's programs allow graduate students more flexibility, but this may be at the expense of limiting your access to specific resources and network pools.

Also, if you immediately go to grad school after undergrad, you might not understand the everyday responsibilities of a full-time role in your chosen field. 



1. Map out what you want from your professional and personal life. 

Be specific as possible.

  • Where do you want to live and work?
  • Which populations or institutions do you want to serve?
  • Is there a possibility that your desires may change, and if so, how?
  • Would those desires be incompatible with holding an advanced degree?
  • Is it financially feasible at this time in your life?
  • Will a graduate degree increase your earning potential?

While you don’t know where life will take you, understanding your wants will help you pursue your goals. 

Once in your graduate program, your career goals may shift further, and that's okay! You will be armed with a more intimate knowledge of your field that is necessary for growing personally and professionally.

If grad school is essential in pursuing your professional goals, start researching programs that fit well into the questions asked above. 

If you're unsure if a master's degree is critical to your professional goals...

2. Connect with career services at your undergrad or alma mater

See if any alumni are enrolled in your dream graduate program or have a career trajectory that you want. It may seem intimidating to reach out to a high-level professional directly, however, many alums enjoy advising undergrads or recent grads who are unsure of their paths.

While the alum's career advice may be more subjective, it will also be more personal. You may not be able to apply the alum's advice directly. Still, they are a great resource and welcomed addition to your growing network.

3. Consider alternative paths to a meaningful career.

Growing closer to the inequities that plague our country is an important step in having a career of impact. At Teach For America we believe the future is bright, but that the change we all hope for starts in the classroom. Teach For America is partnered with hundreds of universities with graduate degree programs. As a corps member in TFA, you would have access to fee deferrals, fee waivers to scholarships, tuition discounts, and partnerships that span a wide range of sectors. Our partners value the leadership and skills gained in the classroom. No matter where you’d like your career to go, you can lead and advocate for students well after your time in the corps.

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Interested in more posts like this?

Check out our blog The Fuse to learn, grow, and imagine a more equitable future, the role you can play, and how to be part of that change.
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