Should I Go Straight into Grad School or Work First?
Model: Alisha Henson

          Many undergraduates who are considering grad school often wonder if they should go straight into graduate school or work for a few years beforehand. The simple answer to this question is that you will have to decide which option is best for you, whether it be graduate school or work. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. Below are some factors to consider when you are trying to decide between graduate school or work and whether you should go directly from an undergraduate program to a graduate program.

Going Straight Into a Graduate Program

          Some students think it is easier to go straight into graduate programs after they have completed their undergraduate programs. These people often feel as though they are in the swing of school and worry that if they stop school for a period of time, they will have more difficulty starting again. You might also find it is easier to start a graduate program directly after your undergraduate program because recent graduates typically do not have as many responsibilities (e.g., partners, children, etc.) as they would later in life. Additionally, starting a graduate program right away means that you will be done with graduate school sooner and will be able to start working toward your career sooner.

          There are a few drawbacks to going straight into a graduate program. If you lack experience in your chosen field prior to starting graduate school, you might not know for sure if you have chosen a field that you will really enjoy. Another drawback of going straight into a graduate program is that some graduate programs like their students to have some prior work experience, so lacking that experience might weaken your application.

Working First

          There are advantages to working in the field for a few years prior to applying to graduate school. First, work experience can give you a better understanding of yourself and of whether or not the field you have chosen is a good fit for you. Additionally, work experience can strengthen your applications.
          However, some individuals note that it is more difficult to return to school after many years because their academic skills have gotten “rusty,” making the transition into graduate school even more difficult.  Another disadvantage to working before graduate school is that your amount of personal responsibilities tends to increase with age; therefore, the older you are when starting a graduate program, the more responsibilities you will likely have outside of school.  The final disadvantage to working before graduate school is that the longer you wait to start your degree, the longer it will take you to finish your degree.

          Regardless of the decision you make between graduate school or work, make sure that you have taken the time to consider all of these factors. If you are determined to continue your education, ask those who are currently in grad school what they have done, and whether they would do the same given the chance again. Older adults obviously have the most experience; gauge their opinions on the question of academia or industry. Graduate school or work after your first degree are both daunting in their own right, but knowing that you have made the right decision will allow you to dive in to the next few years without regret.

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