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Keep My Job or Take a Grad School offer?



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  1. 1. Job with Growth Potential or Grad School Full Ride?

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So I applied to grad school this year for a number of reasons, but largely 1) for professional advancement - having that "masters" degree under my belt and 2) because I really do want to have the chance to study my current field (international development/affairs) more in-depth. When I first decided to apply for grad school this year, it seemed as if there might be limited opportunities to move up at my current workplace (which I like), so grad school seemed like a good way to hedge my bets and make sure that I was moving in a general upward direction in terms of building my resume and getting better experience. However, things have been changing a bit lately with the job situation as one coworker recently left unexpectedly and another is planning to leave this summer. I also just got a great financial offer from what was my top choice school. So my current options seem to be:

1) Grad School

- got an offer of full tuition waiver and a living stipend for the first year - am not sure how easy it will be to get the offer renewed the second year. I read from someone on this board that at the school in question, it's at least somewhat harder to get the same offer the second year than the first year. I do know someone who is currently finishing up at the program, however, who seems to have gotten her similar offer renewed the second year and who told me it shouldn't be too hard if I have good grades/recommendations from my teachers, etc for the finanical aid application for year 2.

- school is abroad in Europe, which has its pluses and its minuses - major advantage is that the program is French/English bilingual so I would have the chance to work intensively on my French (at the same time as I wouldn't feel too much pressure over having to do everything in French that I would if it was only in French and didn't have any coursework in English) and hopefully improve greatly which is a big personal goal and would be good professionally as well. Downside of the international thing is that the school might not have as great a reputation in the US as some other schools and that it's not accreditted by the USG, which could possibly make the job search a little more difficult if I was apply for jobs with the USG later on (this came up because I was reading over a job ad for the government recently that mentioned something about how to get credit for your degree in hiring you either had to have a degree from a school accreditted by the USG or had to have some sort of paperwork stating that your degree was evaluated as equivalent to a US Master's degree (which I imagine is something I might have to pay money to do)

- generally, the program looks pretty good and would offer me the chance to study a lot of things that I've wanted to study for a long time. I like the coursework offered. I could potentially see myself going for a Ph.D. at some point if I can decide what subject I would want it in :)

2) Job

- Previously, I was frustrated with my job (with its entry levelishness and unimpressive job title, specifically), but recently I have been feeling like I'm on more of an upward swing. Could see myself being promoted in the next few months-year if I stayed, though I did apply for a promotion recently and was told I was "not ready yet" although in a very nice way with an offer to start giving me more responsibility, which they have been doing. If a promotion was a concrete possibility (which I guess it's not quite yet, since I'm "not ready") it would be incentive to stay.

- The job is really a pretty nice deal financially, for my field/level of experience. I feel very comfortable, and settled in to my current location. I have good benefits and the organization I work for does work that I believe in and fits me very well. I kind of dread the job search after grad school, given that it took me nine months of un/underemployment plus two months of work in a job that I reaaalllyy hated before I landed my current position.

- If I stayed, I'm not sure what my next course of action would be - I really do want the expertise that comes with a master's degree, so I imagine I would end up going to grad school eventually anyway, although with some better experience on my resume if I got promoted here. I do have the possibility of starting a local grad program part time next fall and working if I want, though I don't feel totally enthusiastic about that.

So, hope the novel length of this message doesn't turn you off from answering my question: what do you think, Internet Strangers? Grad School or job?

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It's hard to say, but in your case I think I might take the grad school offer. Funded MA programs don't come around that often, and when you said growth I thought you meant that there was a promotion waiting for you right now. You don't have any concrete promises of promotions, and they may simply replace the two people who leave with outside applicants, since you are "not ready yet." That leaves you in the same place you are now. And you already said that your goal is to go to grad school eventually anyway, but with "better experience on your resume." But if you already got into your top choice school, why do you need the better experience (other than getting a job after)?

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No possibility of taking a leave of absence from my job for school . . . that would be very nice, given the job market right now.

Juliet - thanks for your answer. I guess you're right, why do I need the better experience? I suppose it's pretty much a given that I will get the better experience anyway after grad school (though maybe not . . .). I think it's a bit of a pride thing - just that I've been out of undergrad for a number of years now, and while pretty much everything I've done since graduation has been meaningful and I feel like I've followed a general upward trajectory in the amount of responsibility I've taken on in various positions, part of me wants the validation of a better title as some sort of recognition of my progress. Maybe that's petty, I don't know.

In any case, I will probably go with the grad school offer. Just generally feeling unsettled about another move and another big life change, and apprehensive about the future. I guess that's normal.

Edited by Alamako
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Once you leave the workforce, you are going to have to work back up to where you are. I'd hate to lose progress unless you absolutely can't advance in your field unless you have a masters degree. In addition, graduate school takes an enormous amount of effort and dedication and should not be done because it is funded or convenient. You should go to grad school because you have an undying passion for it and it is necessary for your goals. Not because you think you should or because you can. There are some rough days and the work load is no joke. Because you are so up in the air, that tells me graduate school is not your passion, therefore I would recommend going for the job.

Edited by NeuroGal
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Are you in a position in your life where you can embrace the suck of being a student again after experiencing the ups and downs of life in the private sector?

If pursuing a master's is primarily about career management, are their options you can pursue while staying in place that will have a similar net effect?

Additional questions. In what industry is your current job? How will your position fare if the economy continues to drag along or worsens? What is the state of the relationship between the United States and the country in which you'd be studying? How close is that country to "hot spots" that might boil over in the next couple of years? (Will you be able to put in place a viable plan to get back to the United States or to hunker down and go grey if SHTF?)

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I don't know your field, but personally, I would go for the funded masters. Although you are feeling better about the job, there is no guarantee that you will get a promotion in the very near future. If it is currently entry level or only slightly above, I disagree with the comment that you will have to work too much to get back to that level. This seems like a great time to go for the masters. Even if your job will not just be waiting for you to come back, if they like you and you keep in touch, I would bet there's a good chance that they will rehire you if a position opens. Alternatively, after the masters, you could probably find another job at at least the level you are at now.

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