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Should You Go to Grad School Immediately After Finishing College




Are you reaching the end of your undergraduate studies, or have you just finished them? You might be wrestling with whether to go to grad school right away or take a few years off. Of course, some career paths require a master’s degree, doctorate, or professional school just to get an entry-level position, and, in that case, it might make sense to go straight into grad school so you can start your career sooner. However, if you don’t need a graduate degree to get an entry-level job in your field, you might want to take some time to gain work experience, travel, work on creative projects, or just decompress a little before you start the long slog that is earning a graduate degree.

Consider Your Career Plan

What career path do you want to take? That’s the most important thing to consider when you’re deciding whether to go to grad school right away. If you want to be a professor, for example, you’re going to need a doctoral degree or, at the very least, a terminal master’s degree, like a Master of Fine Arts (MFA). If you want to be a lawyer or a doctor, you’re going to need to go to law school or medical school. Studying for advanced degrees like these takes time – a lot of it. It can take four to seven years to get a Ph.D., and that’s if you don’t struggle to complete your classwork or finish your dissertation. If you want to pursue a career that requires a lot of schooling, it makes sense to get that schooling finished as quickly as possible, so you can finally start working.


On the other hand, maybe you don’t need a graduate degree to start working in your field. In some fields, a little work experience can help you get into grad school and succeed there. For example, if you want to get a Master of Business Administration (MBA), you’re probably better off working for a few years after you earn your bachelor’s. If you’re not sure whether time off would benefit your career path, take a look at the LinkedIn profiles of professionals who work in the types of positions you aspire to. Did they take time off before grad school? Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who made both decisions – both to go to grad school right away and to wait a few years – and find out how they feel about their choices now.

Take Advantage of Your Momentum

One of the benefits of going to graduate school as soon as you finish your undergraduate degree is that you can maintain your momentum as a student. Sure, you might feel burned out on studying and ready to take a break, but it’s often more difficult to get back into the rhythms of academic work when you’ve been out of school for a while. If you go right away, your study skills will still be sharp. You’ll be in the habit of disciplining yourself to study, and you’ll be used to end-of-semester crunch times and everything that comes with them. It’ll be much easier to adjust to grad school life if you go right away.

Weigh the Opportunity Cost

While going to grad school can open up more opportunities after you finish, it can also have an opportunity cost. The years you spend attending grad school are years that you’re not earning a salary or saving for retirement. Yes, you should be saving for your retirement in your 20s, but if you’re in a Ph.D. program, barely scraping by on your research assistant stipend, you’re not going to have a 401(k) or anything to put in one.


Of course, that might not matter much if you plan to work in a lucrative field. And if you go to grad school when you’re younger, you’re missing out on your least lucrative earning years, anyway.  Of course, it’s also possible to earn a graduate degree while working, which can offset the opportunity cost of going back to school. Programs like the online Masters in Health Informatics at the University of Arizona can help you get the degree you want without bringing the rest of your life to a screeching halt.

Work, Travel, and Find Yourself

Putting off grad school can open up your life to a range of other fulfilling experiences, including earning a real paycheck and having free time. Going to work for a few years can help you build experience. You’ll have the chance to pursue hobbies and creative projects and get involved in your community. Of course, there’s a strong chance that if you take time off before grad school, life will get in the way, and you might end up earning your graduate degree many years later than you planned – or not at all. Don’t postpone a graduate degree without a concrete plan to return to school. The decision of when to go to grad school is an intensely personal one. Whether you want to take time off or plunge right into graduate studies, the important thing is that you keep your ultimate professional goals firmly in your sights.

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