You finally did it. You put in the hours, the sleepless nights and instant ramen noodle dinners. You have made it through school and this is it. Congratulations, you are done with college. It seems that it would be the perfect time to get your life started after college. Of course, that is if you stuck to a “traditional“ college trajectory. Regardless of how long it took and what you did to finish college, you have to figure out the next step after graduation.
For many grads, the next step is to go directly into the workforce after getting an undergraduate degree. For others, they would like to pursue further schooling, whether through graduate school and or additional certifications. So what is right for you? Should you go directly into the workforce or should you add to your list of educational accomplishments? This determination is based on many factors. What are the expectations in your industry of choice? How will further schooling impact pay or your likelihood of being hired? What kind of degree should you pursue? And of course what is the cost of additional schooling?
Here, we will discuss the pros and cons of pursuing post-graduate studies in different specialties to help determine whether or not it’s for you.
If you are interested in STEM, it is very likely that going to graduate school will help you in the long run. Many industries and jobs in engineering, mathematics, and science look to the “graduate education” population when it comes to making employment decisions. The logic behind it is that post-graduate studies help individuals become more qualified to work in certain specialized fields. While it is good to have practical experience, graduate work in some specialty and conducting research can provide for the experience necessary to do well in one’s career. When it comes to hard scientific processes, higher education is the proving ground. It means that you got your work and your ideas were vetted and presented them in front of the best of the best, and they accepted it. A lot of innovation in the sciences is rooted in incremental improvement. Taking the lessons from grad school and applying them in a career is very common.
If you’re getting into the business world, it’s very, very attractive to get your Masters in Business Administration (MBA). It’s very useful for mid to upper-level management positions. Financial institutions and insurance companies all often look for people with MBA. On the other hand, if you are planning on starting your own business, a master’s degree might not be necessary. It all depends on why you went to go to business school. If you went to business school so you can climb the corporate ladder or prove to the CEO that you have the skillset desired to advance in business, then a master’s degree can definitely help you. Again, it’s not required. But a business degree rounds out your background. Good at quantitative analysis, business school can teach leadership, increase your emotional IQ and improve your communications skills. Lack exposure to accounting or finance? Then knowing the complex ins and outs of a balance sheet is definitely a plus. Of course, that’s not all that’s in a master In business administration, but having that wide theoretical understanding of how commerce and industry works will always help you in the long run. But if you are looking to start your own business or plan to stay in a more narrow position in your field, an MBA can definitely help but it’s not required. Many MBA programs look for several years of practical work experience before admitting you.
If you are in the medical field, it may have crossed your mind to try and get an MD. The medical doctor's degree is probably the most famous and difficult postgraduate degree that any person can get. There’s a reason why only about 0.1% of the entire global population is a doctor. Not many people can achieve the grades, take the time and withstand the pressure it takes to be a doctor. Mind you, an MD is not just any doctorate degree. Being an MD requires that you fulfill a lot of difficult prerequisites. If you went to college and you only had a few biology courses, you may still need to enroll in post-graduate studies to get to meet the requirements of a good medical school. Beyond doctors, an array of specialties require graduate study. From many specialties in the nursing profession to lab technicians to physical therapists, many of the jobs in modern medicine require at least a master’s degree.
If you are studying humanities, and are looking at a post-graduate degree, you’re looking at a variety of careers. Many humanities majors will go onto to teaching, whether in high school or higher ed and find they need further schooling. Or perhaps you are looking at a career in either a nonprofit organization like a museum that promotes your particular branch of the humanities or field research utilizing your particular expertise. In some instances, a humanities undergrad degree can be paired with a STEM post-grad degree for work in the business world. Graduate school is very applicable if you plan to work in foundations or academic positions. If you work in art or filmmaking, postgraduate studies may not be that valuable unless you are looking to add business or your work might have a technology component that is hard to learn except through graduate study (for example, programming).
Adult Education and Mastery Development
When you talk about postgraduate studies, it’s not exclusively getting a master’s or doctorate degree. You can simply be looking to expand your horizons. Learning things in an institution is not exclusively for those trying to land a job. You could be financially secure, but intellectually curious. Learning just to learn is as noble a pursuit as any. And if you feel as if your knowledge base is lacking on areas of your interest, then you can definitely supplement it. For example, if you want to become a process guru, you can go for a six sigma course instead of pursuing a postgraduate degree. If you want to expand your ability to create a website, you can take a few classes in coding, especially as website creation also employs more accessible coding languages. There are so many avenues you can go in terms of acquiring more education that do not involve formally enrolling in a graduate degree program. The growth in specialized certification courses in everything from program management to interior design to nutrition are some quick examples.
Whatever you do, the important thing to keep in mind is to never stop learning. A formal post-graduate degree might be one way to pursue additional education beyond college in order to make you more qualified in certain professions, but there are many other options that you can consider in order to advance your knowledge and stay curious.