Should I Have Work Experience Before Pursuing a Master’s Degree?

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Because of uncertainties students have regarding their careers and the economy, students will often ask themselves if they should enroll in a master's degree program after finishing undergraduate school. Though many students choose to continue their education immediately after earning a bachelor's degree, there are advantages to waiting until one has accumulated work experience.


Waiting until one has work experience will allow the student to discover what areas of business might be of particular interest to him or her. Master's degree courses can get very specialized, and once a student has attained a title in a specialized area it may be awkward to change to another area. Because graduate courses are very costly, a student should have a strong sense of his or her long-term goals. Additionally, a graduate student who has obtained real-life work experience will generally be better prepared to grasp the concepts in the graduate courses.

In today's economic environment, in which the nation has been recovering from the worst recession in decades, companies are reluctant to hire graduates lacking in work experience. Training a new worker until he or she is able to fulfill a job can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Thus, many companies are willing to invest in their current employees by subsidizing their graduate education once they have demonstrated a commitment to the company and the ability to provide a return on the investment. While academic credentials are important, companies are generally looking for those who have already developed real-world skills. Company or organizational reimbursement is only available to students who defer graduate school until they have gained real-world experience.


There are advantages to getting a master's degree immediately after attaining a bachelor's degree. Students who earn a master's degree, whether or not they have real-world experience, demonstrate the ability to visualize and achieve long-term objectives. It takes enormous patience and dedication to earn a graduate degree. Furthermore, a master's degree will provide a student with the theoretical foundation of a field of study and can thus give him or her the edge once the real-world experience is gained. Certain fields, particularly those involving science and health, place emphasis on learning in the classroom before applying the skills in the real world.

Students who continue their university education after completing their bachelor's courses can also wait out the current economic weakness and put their energy to good use in the meantime. Not surprisingly, college enrollment tends to increase during economic recessions. However, students should also consider trends in the job market and whether their specific area of interest will provide opportunities after graduation.

Generally, because a master's degree program can be so expensive and students may be uncertain about what they want to do with their lives, students should gain some real-world experience before beginning a master's degree program. However, it may be necessary to continue his or her education after obtaining a bachelor's degree in certain areas of study. Whether or not an individual should continue his or her education will depend ultimately on the circumstances.