To Go To Grad School Or Not To Go

By pearl - February 26, 2014

I remember this being one of my biggest dilemmas when I was in my senior year. I tried to do my research during my senior year internship by speaking to a few managers to get their perspective. And I was biased because I had worked part time through out college and was completely burned out, so I was more inclined to taking a break from school. But looking back now, here is my perspective:-

First of all, I think compared to most majors, engineering is more about practice. I have learned more in the past year than I learned in 4 years of college, which might explain why most of the managers I sought advice from told me to get into the workforce. I however think there are a couple of things to consider before deciding:-
  1. What graduate program should you do? This was one of the hardest for me. I could not figure out what I wanted to specialize in. I loved signal processing, computer networking, electromagnetics, circuits...Yea I was pretty much all over the place. If you were anything like me, a break could help you figure it out.
  2. Why are you going to graduate school? My top 3 most popular responses from people are:
  • They did not get a job after undergrad (usually because they did not start looking early enough).
  • It's a graduate degree, so I will make more money after getting one. And people (especially African Parents) love those degree thingys in my opinion.
  • And of course the noble ones who knew an area they were interested in and wanted to learn more. I call them the school lovers :)
I think the first response totally makes sense. There is no reason why you should pick staying in mom and dad's basement over increasing your chances of getting a job by furthering your education. No reason at all. Unless you are coming up with the next big thing. The second response was sort of where I was. Don't do it because of the money. You won't be getting that much more anyway, especially after tax on average 5k to 15k more. Let's assume you are going to make 15k more, take out 30% (could be more depending on your state) of taxes, divide it by 24 (bi-weekly paycheck) and you should be getting about an additional $187.50 per paycheck..emm thank you very much but I'll pass, especially if it is costing you money to get the degree. Maybe it could help for your career down the road but in my experience, 3 levels of managers up from me have undergraduate degrees. Anyway totally not the point of this article.
The third response..I am pretty sure this wasn't a dilemma for you and you are already enrolled or have applied to grad school. Good for you!! You know what you want and that is truly amazing and cool :-)

So with all this being said, I will put on my woman's thinking hat and tell you my exact opinion after working for one year. If you have an idea of what you want to do, it's advisable to go ahead and do it. Get it out of the way. I had the perfect plan when I left college: work for 2 years, save up, figure out what I want to do and go back to grad school. Ha ha six months into my big plan, I got engaged and the story has so changed. Now I am miserably doing a part time degree program in the evening. Yes miserably because it is hard to juggle work and school, but I will do it over again because I love my husband..OK getting a little personal! Scratch that off :-). But one thing to learn from my experience is plan your life with a pencil, and make sure you have a big fat eraser in case you have to make changes.
 Personally, I think technology is one of those areas where  you don't necessarily need a graduate degree. Come on, look at all these tech giants (my next article) who do not even have a college degree. You just need to get a skill and be very good at it. 

And lastly my point of view is for a masters in engineering and does not necessarily apply to PhD's. I have never really considered one, so I am sorry I can't talk much on that.

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  1. Just what I needed, I've been contemplating.

  2. :) i am glad to help. Let me guess you were #2??

  3. My 2 cents: formal education at any level (undergrad or grad) should be complemented with skills that make one independent of 9 to 5! Ironically most of these skills are not what one learn within "4-walls" of classroom..thank God for internet!!!..Graduate education has its merit and its worth pursing but it’s at best a means to an end..

    1. @Egba man I am totally with you on that. School does not really teach you skill sets. The give you what you need to develop them and the rest is up to you in my opinion.

  4. Hi Pearl, why are u miserably doing a part-time graduate degree?Is it for the additional $187.50 or the degree thingy got to you too?

    1. Hahah good one. well None of the above, I figured out what I wanted to specialize in. I actually wont get paid anymore for it. It works out a little different once you already have a job bc of raises and stuff. You are no longer graded based on your credentials but on your performance. My main motivation is I am in a hardware team but my background is more Software so I am trying to get a better understanding on what my team does.

    2. And also the degree thingy kinda gets to me dude I am African. It means alot to usI assure you