Many students confront the dilemma of getting a job or going to graduate school. The good news is that whatever you choose now, you can always pursue the other option later.

Here are some reasons that you might consider going to graduate school right away:

  • You're excited to learn more
  • You're eager to participate in research and make contributions that can impact the field and society
  • You're interested in a career that values or requires a graduate degree (e.g., leadership or research position in industry or a faculty position)

Keep in mind that, at least for PhD programs, you should expect that your tuition will be waived and you will receive a stipend that covers your living expenses.

Here are some reasons to go to industry after college, even if you're thinking about graduate school as an eventual possibility:

  • You're eager to get some practical work experience
  • You haven't settled on a research area for graduate school
  • You want a change of pace from the academic world
  • You're eager to earn a higher income than a graduate student stipend

It's quite common for people to return to graduate school after several years of work in industry. Oftentimes, this results from a desire to work on more complex problems, gain expertise in a specific domain, and contribute to the current forefront of a discipline.

Returning to school after time in industry can be a very good path for many people. Time in industry will improve your ability to engineer and test complex systems. Industrial experience can also help to clarify overall career goals, and better understand the tradeoffs between doing research and working in industry. Many people who have worked in industry find that they are particularly motivated in graduate school.

On the flip side, some people find that as they get older and have more responsibilities, it's hard to give up the salary and benefits in industry to go back to graduate school. But, many people find that a few years in industry works well.

Most graduate schools are likely to view industrial experience positively, both because of the skills that you can bring to your graduate work and because of the maturity and life experience that one can develop in the work place. 



What's Next

Additional information regarding the differences between the types of graduate degrees (master's, PhD) can be found here.