Graduate school can wait, job experience is valuable

By Taurean Small

Most people nowadays will tell you that it is crucial to go to graduate school immediately after finishing your undergraduate education. Most people will not tell you, however, that it might not be in your best interest.

Is it really a good idea to remain in school for another year or two when you could be getting real-world experience in your field of interest and further securing your future stability?

Most careers today are highly competitive, and although a graduate degree will set you up for potential success, how will you be able to differentiate yourself from your graduate-degree-holding competition?

But of course, there is no doubt in my mind that (depending on your situation and career ambitions) you should still attain a graduate degree. A graduate degree will further establish your credibility as a potential necessity to any company, and here at NIU the College of Business presents an opportunity to put graduate students on the “Fast-Trak” to success. The NIU “Fast-Trak MBA” allows students to earn two degrees: a Masters in Business Administration and a Masters in International Business.

Opportunities like this should not be overlooked. I am just suggesting you should “test the workplace waters” before you decide to go back to school.

“There are pros and cons for both [pursuing grad school directly after undergrad and working directly after undergrad],” said Timothy Aurand, associate professor of marketing. “Those who do choose to work first could apply their experiences back to the classroom when they do decide to return. Those who choose to continue with school get to take advantage of opportunities like the ‘Fast-Trak MBA’ here at NIU.”

But there are some things you get from working that you can not necessarily get in school. Prime example: networking. The contacts you gain in the workplace will greatly benefit you later on in life. Although you are more than likely stuck with an entry-level job due to the fact you just completed your undergraduate, you will get a leg up on you competition later in life because of your contacts. An entry-level position will probably not guarantee you a meeting with the CEO, but the “little people” usually shift around into powerful positions.

In a way, knowing and developing relationships with them will assure you future job opportunities when you do decide to pursue that graduate degree. If you maintain working relations with company employees, their recommendation will serve as your golden ticket.

Speaking of gold, just how are you going to pay for graduate school considering you are now probably sitting on piles of debt you built throughout you undergraduate years? The Washington Post reported that there is over $848 billion worth of student loan debt.

I guess working part-time or just adding more loans could be an immediate answer but what about later?

“Another pro [to working after undergrad] is being able to pay off debts. But on the other hand, considering our economy, it might be harder to find a job directly after undergrad. You could have continued to graduate school as opposed to spending a year looking for a job,” Aurand said.

Whether you decide to continue graduate school later on in life or immediately, you should be wary of the risks and advantages of both.

Personally speaking, graduate school will always be there. But a Fortune 500 Company that is interested in you because they have a vacant position at the moment, probably will not.