The Post College Professional

The Benefits of Work Experience Before Grad School

Posted by Michelle McGuire on Jul 26, 2019

Tags: Grad school consideration

When you start talking about going to grad school, you’re bound to get advice from your professors, friends, and everyone in between. One thing you’ll likely hear over and over again is that you should get a few years of work experience beforehand. How much weight should you give to this advice? Let’s break down the benefits of trading in the academic world for the real world before grad school.

  • You’ll gain clarity: You may think you’re absolutely certain about what you want to study during your graduate degree, and you might be right. But let me tell you there are a lot of paralegals out there who realize they don’t want to go to law school, medical assistants who no longer want to go to medical school, and government employees who are no longer eyeing that public policy degree. Working for a few years gives you the clarity you need to make sure your life’s calling is actually what you’re passionate about. You’ll be able to contextualize your undergraduate degree, learn about the industry, and network to get a sense of your future career path.

  • You’ll get a much-needed breather: You’ve likely been in school for as long as you can remember. There’s no shame in taking a break for personal and/or financial reasons. You’ll be able to pay down your debt and start saving for graduate school to put you in a better financial place when you do decide to go. You’ll also have time for your “eat, pray, love” self-discovery moment in defining your non-academic self. It’s the perfect time to take on a new hobby, use those vacation days to travel, and figure out the real world before heading back to school.

  • You’ll get a leg up: The more you bring to a graduate school classroom, the more you’ll get out of it. That means coming in with your undergraduate degree AND work experience versus just your undergrad degree gives you a leg up. You’ll have a level of expertise to hone and reference in classroom discussions. You’ll also see how what you’re learning clearly relates to the work world versus a hypothetical situation. This means you’ll not only get more out of your degree when you’re in school, you’ll know exactly how to leverage it when you’re out of school.

  • You’ll get real world perspective: A lot happens at work beyond honing your hard skills. You’ll learn the ins and outs of teamwork, leadership, and tricky company dynamics. And you know where those things come in handy? Grad school. Instead of a group project giving you college flashbacks, you’ll know how to lead and work in a team to take that project to the next level. You’ll be able to approach feedback, criticism, and your own strengths and weaknesses in a whole new way.

  • You’ll increase your chances: You know what grad school admissions love? Work experience. It shows your commitment, breadth of knowledge, and gives you an edge in competitive programs. This is especially true for business school where most people come in with 3-5 years of experience!

We’re not saying going straight from undergrad to grad is always a bad choice. In fact, this grad school student is perfectly happy with her decision not to wait. Just make sure you consider the benefits of gaining a few years of experience before you take the grad school plunge.

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