The Best Time to Pursue a Graduate Degree

Posted March 23, 2012 by

Jesse LangleyWhen you graduate from college, students must typically decide whether they want to enroll in a graduate program or immediately enter the workforce. While some students draft a resume and apply for jobs, others take the GRE and begin more advanced study. Depending on your situation, either choice may be the most beneficial. In some cases, you may even decide to attend a graduate program part-time while you work. When deciding which option is best for you, you must consider your current financial obligations, the level of education you need to succeed in the career of your choice, as well as your interest in continuing school and working in the “real world”.


There are several advantages to moving straight from your undergraduate studies into a graduate program. First of all, if you immediately enter a graduate program after finishing your undergraduate work, you will already be accustomed to the routine of schooling. You will be used to living in an apartment, studying, and doing homework every night. In addition, you will be able to continue deferment on your student loans. Furthermore, at this point in your life, you probably have fewer financial responsibilities than you will have after you enter the workforce.

Deliberate delay

If you decide to enter the workforce and return to graduate study later, you will also enjoy several benefits. In most cases, you will have more money to live on than you would ever have during graduate school. In addition, the experience you will gain while in the workforce may help you to choose the right graduate program in the future. Furthermore, when you do decide to begin a graduate program, you will have more life experience than the other students will. There are also positive aspects of deciding to work and attend a graduate program at the same time.

Earn while you learn

One benefit of learning while you work is that you will be able to enjoy the benefits of being in the workforce without delaying your educational advancement. In addition, you will not have to worry about paying for your graduate program costs because you can use the money you make from working. You can also choose a graduate program in the same field as your job. Your experiences in both arenas will complement each other and help you to succeed.

Tips for moving ahead

Ultimately, the decision of when to attend a graduate program must be yours. However, there are several tips you can follow to make your experience better in all situations.

  • If you move directly into graduate study after receiving your undergraduate degree, look for a research fellowship or teaching job at your school to help defer the cost of living as a student.


  • If you decide to pursue a career in the real world and return to graduate study in a few years, make sure that you don’t allow your study habits to get rusty in the meantime.


  • Finally, if you decide to take graduate courses while working, try to choose a flexible graduate program that allows you to build your school schedule around your work obligations.

Deciding when to start your graduate studies is one that should not be put off, even if you select to wait for the right reasons. Weighing family, work and finances as you make your choice isn’t easy, but identifying your goals and crafting a plan provides peace of mind, so don’t avoid this important issue.


Jesse Langley specializes in writing about education, professional and personal development, and career building.  He writes on behalf of

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