When you’re nearing the end of your graduation program, you’re faced with an important question, should you pursue for post-graduation program or not? And if yes, should you get it immediately after graduation, or should you first get a few years of work experience. And if want to work before master’s then, how many years you should work. Moreover, queries that hit the most to the students are.
Should go for study or work?
Career decisions are rarely easy. A big one is whether you should continue studying right after your Bachelors, or whether you should start working and do a Masters later on.
Both options have a lot of good reasons going for them. Let’s have a look at them:
Reasons to do a Masters instead of working:
A Master’s makes it much easier to qualify for the jobs you want and increases job security in the long run. That’s especially true in an economic downturn; first, it’s easier to compete against applicants without a Masters, and second, those with only Bachelors might be among the first to be let go when times are tough.
You’ll earn more money with a Master’s in your hand. With the additional qualification and the added responsibilities, you can expect a higher salary than with only an undergraduate degree.
After a longer break from university, it will be more difficult to get back into the “groove” of learning. (Yes, this sounds counterintuitive – because more is always better, right? The reasoning is this: Academic learning is very different from most typical jobs, and if you’ve been away from campus for too long, you may find it difficult to get back into the “rhythm” of attending lectures, writing essays, and studying.)
If you don’t want to take a 2-year break, consider 1-year Masters! These are sometimes not enough to get into PhD programmes, but employers usually don’t see a big difference and value them just as highly.
Some scholarships are only available to students who have no work experience, or are under a certain age. Postponing your Masters in favour of work may disqualify you.
Some careers will de facto require professionals to have a Master’s degree to advance beyond a certain stage.
If your goal is to do a PhD later on, a Masters is the right (and often necessary) next step after an undergraduate degree. Even if you could do a PhD without a Masters, it will be much more difficult.
Reasons to work and postpone your Master’s degree:
Work experience can help figure out what to study: If you are unsure what subject to get a Masters in, get a relevant job, or try finding an internship. The experience you gain will help you make the right decision later on. This is especially true of versatile entry-level jobs like graduate/trainee programmes where you cycle through multiple departments, or a job in consulting where you would work with multiple clients across different industries.
You can save money, and rely on your savings when you do a Masters later. Financing studies with your own money is much smarter than taking a student loan. That’s usually smarter than taking a student loan.
Initial work experience in a relevant field adds value to your learning experience during a Masters. This can be in a full entry-level position, but also one or two internships can be very insightful. (For example, when I started my own Masters in Finance, I had already done internships where I learnt a lot about topics I would then explore further at university.) Even better: Try doing an internship abroad!
If you didn’t finish your undergraduate degree with a good grade, or if you lack formal education in a certain subject, relevant work experience will help you get into a good university later.
How long should you work before you do a Masters?
If you plan to get work experience before you pursue a Master’s degree, there is the question of timing: When is the right time to leave your job and go back to university? While this is highly individual, consider working between 18 months and 3 years before you go back to university. Here are a few points to take into account:
If you work longer, you can save more money. That’s a good argument to work longer. The only risk is that, with a good income, over time you’ll get used to comforts that you might not be able to afford while you are back at university.
After your Bachelors, if you start in an “open-ended” entry-level job, then stay at that company for at least 18 to 24 months.
On the other hand, if you only have 12 months before your desired Master starts, consider doing two internships (and maybe taking some time off). Less than 18 months is only advisable if it’s a fixed-term scheme, like a graduate trainee programme that runs for a set amount of time. Here’s why: Employers prefer to be able to plan ahead, because recruiting is an expensive and time-consuming process. If your CV contains too many signals that you change jobs often – and leaving your first job after 12 months can be such a signal -, your chances at being hired will decrease.
Don’t wait too long: If you plan to go back to university, do not work longer than 3 to 4 years. There are two main reasons for this: First, it will become more difficult to readjust to university life and studying for courses. Second, because of that, some universities actually prefer MA/MSc applicants with a maximum of 3 to 4 years work experience. Also, you may find it a bit harder to make friends on campus if you are significantly older than your classmates.
If you have already worked longer than that and plan to go back to university, contact the admissions offices at the universities or business schools you are interested in. They will be able to answer how well their programmes suit you, and how successful other mature students have been before you.
Is a Master’s degree worth the cost?
Getting a postgraduate degree can be expensive, especially when pursuing it full time. You do not earn a salary for the one or two years you are at university; you may have to pay high tuition fees; and perhaps you study abroad in a country that’s more expensive than your home country. You may try to find a scholarship, but those are not available to all students. You could also get a student loan, but debt is never advisable if you can avoid it.
These factors add up, so you need to ask yourself if you can (or want to) afford it. The good news: Generally, getting a Masters is worth the money! While you may find it difficult to finance your studies, over time, the financial benefits will outweigh the initial costs. You will earn a higher salary and be much more flexible in your career.
The salary increases with a Master’s degree
With a Master’s degree, you will earn more money. That’s an undeniable fact. The question is: How much more money will it be? And that’s difficult to generalise. The added value of the degree depends a lot on your industry, your country and region, the shape of the economy, and your individual experience, skills and circumstances.
To get a rough idea of the potential salary increase, it pays off to look at labour market statistics. The European Statistical Office (Eurostat) reports that – among the whole workforce, i.e. at every age and level of experience – those employees with a Masters (or higher) earn on average 24% more than those workers with only a Bachelors, with differences in some countries as high as +53%: