Graduate School, Career, Service: What's Next?
The decision to attend graduate school, seek full-time employment or consider a military career or volunteer initiative comes to the forefront during junior year.Now is the time to weigh options and begin making plans.
An academic advisor, mentor and/or Career Services advisor can help in the process. Visiting web sites and networking is important as well. As a parent, you can help by listening and offering judicious counsel.
Because today's career paths are multidirectional, career experts predict the average person will switch careers (not jobs) four to five times in a lifetime. Therefore, the choice to attend graduate school, begin a career or spend time in the military or in volunteer service is one of many steps he/she will take.
Graduate School or Not?
If your student is contemplating graduate school, the following considerations may help in the decision-making process:
- What are his/her long-term goals and is a graduate degree needed to achieve them?
- Is he/she willing to commit the time, effort and finances to pursue an advanced degree?
- Is now the right time to attend graduate school?
- Is his/her passion for this field enough to warrant spending two years taking coursework that is highly specialized?
- Is his/her interest in graduate school based on trying to delay entrance into the workplace and/or on perceived pressure for an advanced degree?
The choice to immediately begin graduate school or wait a few years is a personal one. Many students seek advanced degrees right away while their study skills are sharp and there are fewer personal obligations.
On the other hand, students may delay entrance because they need to earn tuition money or seek funding through employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement programs. In addition, they may want to sample a career field before fully engaging in it through advanced education. Other individuals may want to gain real-world perspectives that can help them assimilate coursework into practical workplace application. And finally, there are some career paths that stress practical experience over additional schooling.
A bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for many jobs. Entry-level positions involve hands-on work rather than managerial. But these experiences provide excellent opportunities for learning, networking and proving oneself to supervisors. The starting salary for 2012 graduates was about $44,000 a year, as reported by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Joining the Military
Duty, honor and pride as well as financial incentives are motivators for many people to join the military. Enlisting with a bachelor's degree can lead to faster advancement for higher ranking officer positions. In addition, it builds an impressive skill set that translates to a career outside the military. However, it may require being sent to undesirable locations, including places of conflict.
Responding to the Need for Volunteer Service
Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and other service-oriented programs can be career builders. Participants learn leadership skills and gain valuable experiences that can translate to the workplace. However, there are time commitments and other stipulations.
If your student doesn't have a definitive career focus, grad school may not be the best choice. Advisers recommend not making it a default option but waiting until a student has clear goals.