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Should you get real-world experience before a master's degree?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015
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Should you get real-world experience before a master's degree?
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In the final semesters of your undergraduate program, you may be thinking about whether you want to enter into a master's degree right after graduation or whether you want to wait. Of course, there are several factors that might influence someone's decision, including financial planning, timing and your field of study. However, many people with graduate degrees have argued that it's better to gain solid, real-world experience before getting a master's degree.

"Gaining real-world experience can help people better understand their field."

A better education
Take Jon Mellon for example. Mellon is vice president and general manager of NetApp's Central Enterprise and Service Provider in America. He decided to put off applying to MBA programs until after he had gained a few years of professional experience, according to CBS. Mellon got his undergraduate degree from Indiana University in business analysis. He then chose to enter the real world and gain experience for several years before choosing to return to school. By the time Mellon decided to begin a master's degree in business administration at the University of Dayton, he was married and had a full-time job. Mellon told the news source he was happy he decided to put off graduate school because his years of professional experience allowed him to understand the subject matter better. He believed that if he had pursued a master's degree right after graduation, he would have had a harder time getting through the curriculum.

Easier financing
Aside from understanding the material better, waiting to pursue a graduate degree can also help you financially. Getting a job after graduation gives you the opportunity to develop a solid checking and savings account, which could help with costly tuition bills. You may also learn a few things about money management, helping you to balance your loans better, and possibly allowing you to qualify for a better loan than you would have gotten before. More importantly, many companies offer to help pay tuition bills if they believe it will benefit them in the end. According to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, 59 percent of employers were happy to help chip in for graduate school. Most of the time, people can keep their job while attending graduate school allowing them to accrue a little money, avoid worrying about loans and gain even more experience that will help them in furthering their careers.

Don't be afraid to ask your employer for financial help. Don't be afraid to ask your employer for financial help.

A more direct path
Waiting to attend grad school can also give people time to consider whether they're making the right decision. When people get real-world experience, they get an up-close look at what their field is actually like. They'll learn whether or not the job market is favorable and how to succeed in it. People will also find out whether their chosen path is the right fit. After working in a field for a few years, people tend to discover exactly what they want to do, even if it means changing direction. If you're confident that you've chosen the right field, you can pursue a graduate degree without any worries. However, if you believe that you aren't where you'd like to be, you can make a switch before you apply to graduate programs.

A fresher outlook
When you take a break between undergraduate and graduate school, you might approach a graduate degree with a little more excitement and vigor than you would have had you not taken a break. Attending class, writing papers and studying for midterms and finals takes energy and commitment. Taking a breather and entering the workplace can allow you to return to school with more maturity, knowledge and patience.


By Monique Smith

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Queens College offers more than 100 master's degrees and advanced certificates in the liberal arts, sciences, social sciences, and teacher education.
www.qc.cuny.edu