A LOT OF
people who use this site are recent college graduates looking for jobs. They often have impressive academic credentials, but no work experience. I find this particularly odd when they have a graduate degree. How did they not get any work experience between undergrad and graduate school?
The obvious answer is, because they never got a job. They retreated to the ivory tower and they have now been students for an incredible 18-23 consecutive years including their first 6-9 years as an adult. Yes, they tacked some more letters on to their e-mail signature, which is not generally a bad thing. The issue is the majority of these people went to graduate school before figuring out what career they really wanted.
I know, some people coming straight out of undergrad honestly think they know what kind of career they want and that grad school is their golden ticket to this career. The reality is, if you have never had to wake up at the same time every weekday for a year, you don't know what any
job is like, much less your supposed dream
job. You've been in fantasy-land where you can stay up until 3 am two nights a week and it doesn't matter since you don't have to be to class until 11 am the next day. Work experience, even if it's not exactly in a perfect job, is the most important thing to have before going to graduate school.
Why?1) You gain a better understanding and appreciation of the costs and benefits associated with graduate school
I see a lot of articles online about how graduate degrees' worth isn't what it used to be. I believe this is true. I believe the reason is because so many more people are getting graduate degrees thinking it will be some sort of cure to their inability to get a wonderful job. They then fail to get a good job and go on complaining about it on their blogs. It's elementary that when there is a surplus of graduate degrees awarded, there will be a deficit of good jobs for those holding the degrees. So graduate degrees are not a guarantee of a job.
A graduate degree holder who showed no initiative and did not get an industrial internship is going to have a much tougher time getting a job than someone who did. Even if you have a scientific PhD, go see how many jobs there are outside academia for someone who has an incredibly specific skill-set with no industry experience (hint: very few). The ones inside academia often pay poorly, have bad hours, are fixed term & have immense competition to get them. Everyone who gets a PhD would like to be a professor, but come on...what are the chances? As a PhD scientist, you could very well end up as a perpetual post-doc making less than someone with a bachelors in biomedical engineering. So before embarking on grad school, a real understanding of what it will take to not only complete graduate school, but to do so while becoming employable in the private sector is highly important.
Thus the benefits of grad school, if there are any, should be well known before you apply. I refuse to believe that people with a fresh BS have analyzed how much grad school will cost, what their expected income increase will be (since they never found out the current market value of their first degree) and what they must sacrifice by going back to school.
Having worked for as little as a year, you will be at a much better point of analysis for such a momentous decision as going to grad school.2) You get a better grasp of what kind of career you would really find fulfilling
I can't tell you how many people I know who became teachers and then subsequently complained about how little teachers got paid. This is a perfect example of doing things backwards. If salary is important, don't become a 1st grade teacher in Florida. The same goes for grad school. Get out in the real world for a while, determine what's most important professionally and personally, and if grad school makes sense, then do it.
If you only care about money, you may be surprised to find out grad school is actually a losing game in many fields. When you factor in the opportunity cost of not working and gaining real-world experience while in graduate school, combined with the cost of attending and the subsequent student loan bills, it is very easy to run into a losing situation. Add in how your more specific degree will make you less geographically mobile or simply unable to find a good job in the city you want to live in, and you can have a big mess of regret on your hands if you hastily choose to go to grad school as a way out of the real world.
When you take your time and think through your decisions, you will figure out whether grad school is right for you. The time to do this is not in December of your senior year in college.3) You are a MUCH better student when you have lived in the real world for a while
This one is from personal experience, but the maturity level of a grad student who has worked vs. one who came straight from undergrad is astounding, and it goes beyond mere age.
I was a teaching assistant in a graduate-level regulatory affairs class and it was obvious who knew what they wanted to do with their degree and who was just getting a degree to do it. The difference was, the people who had a sense of purpose took the classes seriously, picked projects that focused on their future career interests and genuinely tried hard to do a good job. The people who didn't care treated it like undergrad with the goal of just getting assignments done and picking the easiest projects instead of getting the most out of them.
The straight-through kids get much, much less out of their grad degree and it makes sense in many ways. Who goes back to school three years after working a bad job and finds studying to be difficult? Studying and learning is waaaay more fun, interesting and enjoyable than working 9-5. It's thrilling to be back at college but without all the distractions and with a clear sense of purpose. This is something that is not common in new grads. They have been studying for four or five years straight, are burned out and need a break before taking their studying to the next level.4) You have time to figure out what needs to be done to get your dream job
You should determine before
going to grad school what you will need to do to become one of the top graduates in your new field, thus providing you with more interview opportunities when you're done. If your dream job is high-end, you better research what will help you get into a great school and make it happen. I studied for the vocabulary section of the GRE for six months before taking it. I read classic literature with a wide array of unfamiliar words (anything by Dickens), I read Scientific American & The Economist and I searched online for lists of GRE words. I created lists of all the words I came upon and studied these words extensively. I eventually knew every
word on my list (and got a 680, but enough bragging).
I was only able to do this because I didn't have a forced schedule of 'I have to take the GRE by June or else I will miss the application deadline for next year'. I knew I was going to take the test only when I was ready. If I didn't give myself sufficient study time, I was not going to do well enough to get into the only grad school I had an interest in attending. You cannot cram for the GRE vocabulary test.
When you interview for jobs, your goal should be to interview the company and employees as much as they are interviewing you. Some people disagree and say "times are tough, I'll work for anyone", but if you don't think employers will pick up on that attitude, you're just being hopeful. The jobs that are offered to people that will accept any old job offer are for desperate people, are probably low paying and are likely to be boring. They are fringe jobs that you will find yourself stuck in...far from a 'dream' job.
The only way to truly be in a position to interview the company while they interview you, is if you are a top tier candidate. Making yourself top tier starts a year or more before you go to grad school.Just Take Your Time
Graduate school is an expensive and important decision. You should make this decision when the time is right, not when time is of the essence. It should not be treated as a way out, but rather a way in...a way in to the job you truly want. It takes time and experience to know what job you really want. Take your time and grad school can be a great investment and experience.BioPharmGuy