When to pursue Grad School? After Undergrad or Work Ex?

You have just graduated and received your degree from an undergraduate college. Congratulations! You have poured your blood, sweat and tears into the last four years to get this point. Now it’s time to make another decision, do you continue down the path of higher education to get the next degree at Grad School OR do you start your career with a job first? It is not an easy decision so the goal is to help an undergrad understand the decision factors and provide tips to guide the thought process.

This decision is one that most college students will have to eventually make. There are several questions an undergraduate should ask themselves to make the decision.

  • How much student loan debt do you have after undergrad? Are you able to take on more?
  • Why are you pursuing a Masters or Graduate degree? What are your motivators?
  • Are you able to commit the extra time during undergrad to take the GRE/GMAT and apply to schools?
  • Do you need a break from the stress of college? Do you just want to continue on and finish it?
  • Do you want to move to a foreign country because you want to settle there?

These are some questions to ask as a starting point before making the decision. The table below shows typical answers and whether they fall in the category of completing a graduate degree right after completing undergrad or first getting work experience.


Undergrad then Grad School First

Undergrad then Work Experience First

How much student loan debt do you have after undergrad?

Little to None

Medium to High Amount

Why are you pursuing a Masters or Graduate Degree?

Depth in a subject area, picking a concentration within undergraduate major of study, Interested in Research studies, Masters is necessary prior to getting a job

Salary increase, Career path change, Industry change, want to move to a different country

Are you able to commit the extra time to take the GRE/GMAT & apply to schools?

Yes, ability to commit 5-10 hrs/week for 6 months to preparation

No, cannot commit 5-10 hrs/week for 6 months

Are you able to continue with the schooling process for another 2-3 years?

Yes, I would rather finish all my schooling at once

No, it would be nice to have a break from the stresses of schooling.


The factors above are the answers to questions that have a clear, logical answer. Next, the questions below are those necessary to supplement the decision-making process but have answers that are initially less clear.

Question #1:

Making the decision to go to graduate school is the first step, the next critical question is: What type of graduate degree do you REALLY want to pursue?

Some people CAN answer this question as an undergraduate student because the next higher degree is necessary for them before getting a first career experience. But for many, it is not necessary so in these cases, how does one decide what type of degree to pursue?

The answer can be found through researching, understanding the position you see yourself in 5-10 years from now and getting a mentor in that role to understand the education steps they took to get there, taking small introductory courses online to different subject areas and see what peaks your interest, etc.  OR if you were to get some work experience first, you could see firsthand the type of work you enjoy doing, what you despise doing, or what you see peers doing that you believe you would be a good fit in. Both of these options will help you to answer the question of the type of degree to pursue but the steps to getting the answer are different based on preference.

Question #2:

Can you REALLY afford to pursue another degree straight away?

A lot of undergrads have a student debt as well because private universities can be very expensive in any country. Adding the cost of student loan debt of a graduate degree which typically costs between $70,000-$100,000, would result in a large loan amount to pay off eventually with a first job.

The cost of carrying such a large loan can also affect the ability to finance other parts of life later on (having children, large weddings, buying a house, etc.).

Due to this, many people pursue two options to alleviate the financial burden associated with grad school: get a job first to decrease the undergraduate loan amount and then take time off to pursue a graduate degree OR simultaneously pursue a graduate degree while working at a job. There is also a plus here that many companies will pay for a partial or full amount towards the cost of your degree, if it is to their benefit.

Question #3:

You might say you’ll go back to school later, but will you REALLY?

Life’s complicated, things change all the time, and how we feel about something now is rarely the same as how we feel about it in the future.

So, as a bright-eyed motivated undergraduate, you tell yourself that you will go back to school in 3 years and get that next degree.

In the blink of an eye, 3 years goes by and you realize you are not yet ready to go back to school so you might put it off another 3 years. By this time, you’re married, you have your first child and it feels like there’s no way you can go back to school now. And the story continues…..

If you think this sounds like you, then going to grad school now might be the better option.

Whether the decision is to go to graduate school now or later, there is no right answer or option of when a person should pursue the next step in higher education.

The hope is that you un-regrettably make the decision that is right for you and allows you to reach your goals!



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