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Asked by Emma on September 13, 2017

I know that it varies on an individual basis, but would you say that it's better to pursue an advanced degree immediately after undergraduate, or after obtaining a few years of work experience?

Answered by Tom, Hiring Expert at VF Corporation, on September 22, 2017

As you suggest, it varies, but more often than not, I would recommend obtaining work experience first for three primary reasons.  1)  Actual work experience is more valuable to an employer...it's not about the education itself, more about how you've applied what you've learned.  2)  You will get more out of and be able to contribute more to your graduate education if you have work experience to apply it to and compare/contrast your education against.  3)  Getting into your career a little bit will put you in a better position to assess the value of the advanced degree for your career...you may assume it's important, but than realize it's not once you get into it and/or the area of study is different and so on.

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Answered by Makailyn, Hiring Expert at Textron Inc., on November 10, 2017

This is a great question and something that I, myself, debated about with my own career. As you mentioned, I do not think that there is a definite right or wrong answer to this and very much so depends on your field of study. That being said many coworkers of mine have reiterated how important gaining work experience is before going back to school for that advanced degree. Having a couple of years of experience working and facing situations in your day to day job will help prepare you for that advanced degree. If you do wait the information you will learn about may be easier to understand since you have that personal experience to relate it back to. These experiences will help you retain the information but also relate to the other students who may have had similar situations happen in their previous work experience. Another benefit of waiting is that sometimes your company will pay for you to complete your advanced degree! Good luck whichever route you decide to take!

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Answered by Eddie, Hiring Expert at Quest Diagnostics, on November 13, 2017

This depends on what you want to do with the degree, in my opinion. I'm actually just entering a master's degree program after graduating from college over 20 years ago--yes OVER 20! The reason is I took time to figure out what really stimulates me intellectually instead of finding something that would be a lotto ticket for career advancement. Not only is this a big investment of time and money, but also mental and emotional energy for many people. As I kept working and excelling in my career, I found that I have a huge fascination with leadership and organizational dynamics. So I developed a list of criteria for what I want out of my learning experience, did a lengthy search, and found a program. I just started and I LOVE every minute of what I'm learning about organizations, leadership, and ethics. 

The point is this. Had I gone to grad school right out of college, I would have probably made a choice that I would now regret because I couldn't identify what I really wanted to learn more about as it relates to my career. On the other hand, for example, I have friends who went to law school right after undergrad, loved every minute of the grueling work, got their JDs, passed their bars, and have been fulfilled in their work for more than 20 years with no signs of slowing down because of that passion they've had since undergrad. 

If you know what you want and why you want it, I say go for it right after undergrad. If you feel that getting practical experience (or some money in the bank) is better, wait a few years. The degree won't run away from you. ;-) Best of everything to you!

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