Grad school instead of job

Nov 302003
Authors: Leigh Pogue

With the unemployment rate steadily rising since 2000 to the

current 6 percent as measured in October, more students are finding

alternatives to getting a job right after graduation.

“I think it is a tightened economy,” said Brian O’Bruba,

associate director of the Career Center and career counselor.

“There are jobs out there, it may take longer to find one


For some students one alternative to waiting for a job or

getting a job in which they are less interested is to apply to

graduate school and advance their education.

“In general, when jobs are tougher to find, it is a good use of

people’s time to be in school,” said Patrick Pellicane, dean of the

graduate school. “If you find yourself unemployed and with no

prospects immediately, you have to do something with your


The slowing economy encouraged Dallas Blaney, a master’s student

in political science, to go on to graduate school.

“I always planned on (going to graduate school), but because I

wasn’t able to get a job it made me think about going on in school

sooner,” Blaney said.

Getting a graduate degree may also help Blaney get a job in

teaching, which he was not able to do with just his bachelor’s

degree in history.

Holly Gates-Peters, who is working on her master’s in speech

communication, came back to get her advanced degree after working

for three years in the corporate setting. She decided to go to

graduate school because her job in corporate human resources wasn’t

as rewarding as she had hoped. She was also encouraged to go back

because when she graduates in May 2005 she believes the job market

will be better.

Gates-Peters said of the 12 students in her program, at least

three of them came back because of the poor job economy.

Pellicane finds that like Blaney and Gates-Peters, many students

go to graduate school because they see more career choices.

“A graduate degree is more focused,” Pellicane said. “Students

are going (to graduate school) for a much more specific reason – to

get credentials that will open doors for them.”

Graduate school, however, requires a time commitment and


“For an individual it has to fit with their career goals,”

O’Bruba said. “Grad school is a very serious endeavor and

applicants have to be motivated.”

O’Bruba encourages students to analyze their motivating factors

to attend graduate school.

They should ask themselves is an advanced degree required in the

field? Would a full-time position help confirm the pursuit of

additional education and is it possible to apply to graduate school

and continue looking for employment?

“I would only recommend going to grad school to someone if the

grad work would help make them a better job candidate,”

Gates-Peters said.

Graduate school can possibly even hinder someone from getting a

job in certain fields by making them overqualified, O’Bruba


In certain careers a graduate degree can be helpful in getting a

job, but the reverse can also be true. Having job experience can

help one get into a graduate program. An example of this is that

admission into the master’s program for business requires job


Students seeking graduate school need to take into account these

factors and also use the resources at hand, O’Bruba said.

“Students need to make an informed decision using all of their

resources,” O’Bruba said

These resources can include the Career Center, career counselors

and databases.

“Think about what you want from life and how grad school fits

in,” O’Bruba said. “Don’t settle for grad school. It should fulfill

a life-long dream, a personal or career goal.”

Possible info box:

Statistics from the Office of Budgets and Institutional


Number of graduate applicants by college

Sept 13, 2003 Sept 12, 2003 Change

Overall 5520 5876 +356

Veterinary Med.+Biomedical Sci 289 274 -15

Natural Sciences 1327 1543 +216

Intra-University 217 163 -54

Applied Human Sciences 727 951 +224

Natural Resources 270 271 +1

Engineering 1439 1399 -40


Business 349 316 -33

Agricultural Sciences 221 224 +3

Liberal Arts 681 735 +54

Unemployment rates according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics


1996 5.4 %

1997 4.9 %

1998 4.5 %

1999 4.2 %

2000 4 %

2001 4.7 %

2002 5.8 %

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