Go to school, get an education, get a job and make money. This seems so simple, until you start to consider the options available. After graduation, students can attend graduate schools or look for a job and start their careers. The question is, which option will be the most beneficial in the long run?
Let’s start by eliminating possibilities and narrowing down the choices. Accountants typically can’t avoid graduate school since the big four accounting firms won’t look at students who haven’t received their Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification. In order to take the CPA exam accounting majors are required to have 150 class credits. The average student graduates college with 120 credits. This means the logical path for accounting majors would be to attend graduate school, receive their CPA certification, and then join an accounting firm. Other majors, such as psychology and the health and sciences, would also benefit from graduate school as students would be more competitive in their fields and qualify for more job opportunities.
For business majors other than accounting, it pays to take a job right out of school. If the reason for attending graduate school is to receive a higher degree and have a greater starting salary, then please consider the following. First, gaining real world work experience can put you in a more favorable position to get into a prestigious graduate school such as Haas Business School at the University of California-Berkeley, Booth Business School at the University of Chicago, or Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania. Second, many colleges offer five year programs for an MBA; however, attending a different college for your graduate degree may expand your network and open doors to more opportunities. The degree and the network of a prestigious school are factors that can increase your salary or qualify you for a higher level position, either within the company or with another firm.
Another dilemma may be whether to complete your MBA in one year or work while attending graduate school part-time for multiple years. The biggest factor in making your decision should be your ability to balance work and school. If you never worked while in college then it may be a very difficult transition. It isn’t healthy to overload yourself with work and miss out on consistent sleep, exercise, or a social life. After college you are still young, and that is the optimal time to enjoy yourself when you have limited obligations and dependents. If during college you worked or interned part-time then you will have a better understanding of how to balance work, school, and your well-being. If you believe that you are someone who can handle both work and classes, then we suggest you explore this opportunity.
The cost of one year full-time verses part-time for two years is the same since you only pay for the credits themselves. Further, if you choose to work you may be able to have your tuition reimbursed if your employer offers this as a benefit. Either way, you are likely to make more money in the long run if you take a job right away and attend graduate school part-time. Let’s say your starting salary out of school is $55,000. This means after two years you will have made a gross of $110,000. If you attend graduate school full time immediately after graduation you may have a higher starting salary due to your degree; however, unless it is higher than $110,000 you won’t have earned more money and you won’t have gained the work experience from taking a full-time job post-graduation.
This decision between graduate school and a career immediately after college is an extremely difficult choice for many students, but rest assured you are not alone. There are a multitude of resources available and it never hurts to seek advice from those you trust. Whichever decision you make, you are headed in the right direction towards a bright future. Take your time and find the path that works best for you.
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