Do your Master’s or get a job? This will help you decide.

One of the most common questions that students ask as they drawer near to graduation is if they should pursue a postgraduate degree or enter the job market? There isn’t one correct answer to this question, certain considerations need to be taken into account before arriving at a decision. The value of a master’s degree depends on what you do with it. Whatever your aims, keep in mind that postgraduate study requires you to invest your time and money, it will not automatically be relevant to all of your possible future career goals.

Considerations for a post-graduate degree

Before you decide to pursue postgraduate studies, consider your motives and decide what you want to achieve. The following are some of the reasons people pursue post graduate degrees;

  • Seeking an academic challenge
  • To increase knowledge, expertise and skills
  • To develop research skills
  • Career progress
  • To increase employability
  • To increase earning potential
  • In a recession, when jobs are difficult to get, more students tend to stay in university to complete postgraduate studies
  • To facilitate career change – i.e. enter a completely new field through conversion courses

If you enroll for a post graduate degree without a clear goal, you will may end up wasting both time and money. While certain careers definitely require an advanced degree — doctors, lawyers, and psychologists for example — many other careers offer plenty of job opportunities for job-seekers with just an undergraduate degree. A postgraduate course is not a golden ticket that will automatically allow you to walk into any workplace and have employers falling over themselves to give you job offers. Remember that you can enter the realm of postgraduate study at any stage in your career. It is therefore not always urgent to do so immediately after undergraduate studies if you are unsure. Lets consider the pros and cons of each option.

Advantages of pursuing an immediate Master’s

Here are some benefits of enrolling into a postgraduate degree straight after your Bachelor’s.

  • You are still fresh. After graduation, you’ll find the energy and the motivation to study more easily as you will still be in the rhythm of going to class, doing assignments and studying for exams.
  • Postgraduate study gives you the chance to really specialize in a field that interests you and advance your knowledge. If you enjoy the subject you are studying, then you may be motivated to move on to a higher degree.
  • You often have fewer obligations after your undergraduate i.e. children, mortgage etc.
  • Some occupations require an advanced degree even for “entry-level” positions.
  • The benefits of a postgraduate degree extend beyond getting that first job. Your qualification will be looked upon favourably when promotion opportunities arise, even if it isn’t essential for entry level into the profession, it will still pay off in the long run.

Disadvantages of pursuing an immediate Master’s

  • You risk becoming too academically qualified. Without the relevant work experience some employers may be weary about taking on postgraduates, worrying that they have spent too long in education focusing on theory and not enough time developing employability skills.
  • There is sometimes a concern – particularly with PhD students – that the student may have overspecialised.
  • There are costs of further education. Post graduate studies can be very expensive.
  • The added degree may not benefit or have any significant impact on your career goals.

Advantages of working

  • In joining the workforce immediately, you start to earn income, gain work experience and professional skills that might be beneficial to your career later on.
  • Some occupations will not mean extra compensation for an additional degree since they might prefer skills that can only be gained work experience. In such cases, an early start in the workforce can provide a competitive edge, especially since not all skills can be acquired academically.
  • You will essentially have about 2 years more work experience more than going straight into a postgraduate degree.
  • Getting work experience and practical exposure to your field will help you to get a clearer path and idea of what you want career-wise.
  • Classes will be easier for you to understand, with practical training gained from the world of work. You will bring a broader world view to your studies.
  • You can start building a professional network. You can meet the right people who can help you achieve your career goals.
  • You  will have a more mature outlook on school and work.
  • Working can assist you to save money for post-graduate tuition and expenses, which would allow you to devote dedicated time to a degree.
  • Many employers will pay some or all of your graduate school expenses.

Having taken all the above points into consideration, you ultimately need to do your research. Conduct informational interviews and ask people in the field for their opinions as they will directly understand the usefulness of postgraduate degrees. Ensure that you take a wide sample — the extent to which a post graduate degree is respected can often company-specific. If you think that more studying may be beneficial to your career advancement, first consider professional certifications and short courses that tackle a specific area of knowledge or skill that you want to strengthen. This is not as expensive or committal as pursuing a postgraduate degree, but provides the effect of enhancing skills you need.