I can’t quite tell you what I thought my life was going to look like after graduation, but I wasn’t expecting to be working from home in the cybersecurity field while I learn more about tech and marketing on the job.

Let’s be honest, no matter where we’re all at, I’m not the only 2020 graduate feeling this way. Some of us have jobs, are continuing education, pursuing the job hunt, taking a gap year, or something else entirely. From what I can tell, we’re all in different spots and that’s not a bad thing.

What that means, however, is that we all have different decisions to make when our lives and our plans don’t quite fit with the world around us anymore.

The decision I know a lot of my peers have been coming up against lately is deciding whether or not to pursue a graduate degree right now. Depending on the career and the field, certain end goals require a larger degree at some point, but does that mean you need to get it right now? 

Well, that also depends on quite a few different factors. As a topic that I began worrying about a long time ago and still haven’t come to a decision on, weighing the pros and cons of further education right now is something I wanted to bring to a larger audience. I know I’m not the only one in this position and maybe if you’re also in these shoes, you can add to the conversation too.

So without further ado, let’s begin.


Is what you’re doing now or what you’re about to be doing productive?

Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

Sometimes people take a gap year to work, do research, find internships, or even just take a few months break before heading into whatever comes next. In many cases, people can plan for whatever they’re hoping to do next before they graduate, and then hopefully make those plans happen. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, a lot of those hopes and plans have been negatively impacted. Previous roadmaps to success may not look quite like they used to and we’re having to readjust. Now we find ourselves facing this question: whether we are taking a much-needed break, working, job searching, or doing something else… is it productive?  

That depends.

In order to understand what path you’re on and where that path should be going according to both your wants and your needs, two things have to be defined: first, your goals and second, your limitations. Let me tell you why.

Goals

While there are more straightforward paths like medical or law school where it is necessary to get a post-grad degree, many other degrees and fields are not as structured. Because of this, it is important to define your end goals in order to understand how grad school may or may not fit into that. Without a solid plan, graduate education is not a practical option for a lot of reasons and understanding that fit is one of them. As an English major, I could go into a field like Publishing, Marketing, or Communications without a master’s degree due to the skills I developed during my bachelor’s degree as long as I have the resume and skill aptitude to back it up. If I wanted to go into something like social work or even design, however, I would need a secondary degree for that.

If your end goal is largely in agreement with the education you already have and only requires on-the-job learning— if you are confident that you can attain this learning or these jobs without a secondary degree— then it is fine to drop the idea of a graduate education. That being said, if there is even a small thought of advancing in your field or leveraging success later on in a way that a degree may be necessary, I wouldn’t close that door yet. In that case though, further education doesn’t necessarily need to be pursued right now. That decision cannot be made without considering the other dependent factor.

Limitations

One of the biggest limitations many of you may be familiar with right now is the lack of availability of jobs and wiggle room for opportunity. Even though we all might have plans and goals, there may be no way of reaching them as quickly as we had hoped. That leaves us with a few options: 1. Change your goals. If you can’t get to where you originally wanted to be, look forward and see if there are different goals that you can reach that will still keep you moving forward in the ways that you want to be. 2. Adjust to your current circumstances. I’ve mentioned it before but in 2008, the economic crisis had a lot of graduates deciding to go for jobs they knew they could do, regardless of whether or not it was in their field. Beyond this, their other common route was to take on a secondary degree that was sometimes a goal to get later— plans had changed, and they adjusted to it how they saw fit.

Right now, those secondary degrees look like a mix of mostly online with very little in-person schooling, harboring larger limitations than people are used to seeing within a “classroom setting.” Depending on if higher education also involves moving to a new place, that also comes with new challenges that take on lives of their own when it comes to the financial impacts of the pandemic. 

It’s only after understanding both these goals and limitations can we then recognize whether or not we’re being productive in our current space. After all, productivity can be defined in too many different ways, and for this instance, it will be defined in terms of getting from point A (graduating) to point B (goals) in a timely fashion that will preferably not break the bank.


The future is more or less, uncertain for many of us, and for those of us in a position of deciding what we’re doing with our lives, we have a lot of decisions to work through and not a whole lot of answers.

Everyone has been talking about a “new normal” and whatever it may look like in the coming months. For us, deciding what 20-somethings lives are supposed to look like and how we figure that out is something that I think will look more or less the same. This question of grad school or no grad school right now comes down to goals, limitations, and productivity as it applies to every one of our unique situations.

Wherever we end up, I’m pretty sure this uncertainty is all considered normal. I hope that some people have found this helpful and if you have, I want to know what made the most sense to you. If you’ve been through this dilemma before and have any tips or tricks for grads, feel free to share your knowledge, as I know I’m not the only one who would truly appreciate it.

Otherwise, I hope you all have a good weekend and for those of you in fiery areas, please stay safe. See you all next week.

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