Author Topic: Graduate School  (Read 2739 times)

Cwadda

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Graduate School
« on: May 02, 2014, 09:48:50 AM »
Okay, I've heard a lot of things about Grad school. I'm currently on pace to get my undergrad degree, a B.S. in Environment Science, one full year early (3 years total). I'm not sure if I want to leave college a year early since it's such an enjoyable place - I don't want to regret it later. These are the options I was thinking about:

1. Get an additional degree
2. Go to Graduate School

I have an internship with an environmental consulting company that offers to pay for Grad school (half up front, other half after). I'm not sure the extent to which they pick the study area though. I've talked with a few people in the field and these are the general ideas I take away:

-In general, the more specific your area of study, the higher paid you will be. This is comparable to practicing medicine. If you are a hand surgeon, for example, you will likely be higher paid than a general practitioner.
-It is hard to go back to school after you have been working for a while due to leaving a salary, dealing with a family, etc
-Having a Master's degree makes you more competitive to employers

I wouldn't say I absolutely LOVE my field of study, but I do feel like my skill set matches it well.  Also, I have found a side job that I know I enjoy doing, and will always make me happy.

What should I do?

studentdoc2

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Re: Graduate School
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2014, 10:02:36 AM »
Okay, I've heard a lot of things about Grad school. I'm currently on pace to get my undergrad degree, a B.S. in Environment Science, one full year early (3 years total). I'm not sure if I want to leave college a year early since it's such an enjoyable place - I don't want to regret it later. These are the options I was thinking about:

1. Get an additional degree
2. Go to Graduate School

I have an internship with an environmental consulting company that offers to pay for Grad school (half up front, other half after). I'm not sure the extent to which they pick the study area though. I've talked with a few people in the field and these are the general ideas I take away:

-In general, the more specific your area of study, the higher paid you will be. This is comparable to practicing medicine. If you are a hand surgeon, for example, you will likely be higher paid than a general practitioner.
-It is hard to go back to school after you have been working for a while due to leaving a salary, dealing with a family, etc
-Having a Master's degree makes you more competitive to employers

I wouldn't say I absolutely LOVE my field of study, but I do feel like my skill set matches it well.  Also, I have found a side job that I know I enjoy doing, and will always make me happy.

What should I do?

Perhaps it is different for environmental science, but in many of the biological and physical sciences, a master's degree is not incredibly useful for employment -- a PhD is preferred (this preference is not necessarily something with which I agree). I would personally never suggest going to grad school and preparing to write a thesis if your heart's not in it -- it has to be a path you really REALLY want. It's quite common among scientists to take a gap year (or several) after undergrad before deciding to go back to grad school -- some additional experience can also make you a better applicant for schools (and scholarships!). I'd say take the gap year. If you miss the science, go back to school. If not, find a way to use your skills in a field and lifestyle that makes you happy.

Dr. A

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Re: Graduate School
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2014, 12:26:52 PM »
I'm assuming by "environmental science" and "environmental consultant" you're referring to a career closer to an engineer than a hard scientist (as studentdoc2 assumed); site remediation, energy consultant for building owners, water resources etc. If I'm wrong about that, please disregard everything I have to say.

If you're near a school that has a decent program and has night classes, getting a masters part-time and having your employer paying for it is a slam dunk. I'm a civil engineer (so, not a totally different planet than you), and went that route. I did it one-class-a-semester and started up a year after I graduated/started working. It's definitely true that going back to school gets harder, but it's not a cliff; after a year or two it's no problem. Where it starts to get tough is if you get married, or have a kid. It's really about whether you have people waiting at home for you.

In my field, I have found getting a masters to be helpful and relatively painless. Grad classes, especially night classes, are a lot different than undergrad. The students are grown-ups with jobs who are there because they want to learn something, not because they need the credits. The coursework was a lot more practical (at least in my program). The professors generally worked (either actively or recently) in the industry. Having the degree really did help when I applied for a new job, and is a tangible point in your favor for salary negotiation.

All that said, it makes absolutely no sense if there's a chance you'll decide to leave this field, so I'd think hard about your last sentence, lest you waste a whole lot of time pursuing a degree you won't end up using.

Cwadda

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Re: Graduate School
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2014, 01:48:42 PM »
Dr. A,

You're right on about the environmental consulting path, (not a hard science) but I never ever imagined it to be like engineering. Which I suppose it is. Wow...

Anyway, I say that I have a side job that I can rely on to be happy with the mentality that I will not be going further in education with it. My quarter-time/part-time job is directing the music program at a church. I could go to school for music, a definite passion, but I don't think that translates comfortably into a career except the teaching route, which I know for sure I'm not interested in.

So yes, I would use the degree for sure.

Gin1984

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Re: Graduate School
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2014, 02:05:52 PM »
Okay, I've heard a lot of things about Grad school. I'm currently on pace to get my undergrad degree, a B.S. in Environment Science, one full year early (3 years total). I'm not sure if I want to leave college a year early since it's such an enjoyable place - I don't want to regret it later. These are the options I was thinking about:

1. Get an additional degree
2. Go to Graduate School

I have an internship with an environmental consulting company that offers to pay for Grad school (half up front, other half after). I'm not sure the extent to which they pick the study area though. I've talked with a few people in the field and these are the general ideas I take away:

-In general, the more specific your area of study, the higher paid you will be. This is comparable to practicing medicine. If you are a hand surgeon, for example, you will likely be higher paid than a general practitioner.
-It is hard to go back to school after you have been working for a while due to leaving a salary, dealing with a family, etc
-Having a Master's degree makes you more competitive to employers

I wouldn't say I absolutely LOVE my field of study, but I do feel like my skill set matches it well.  Also, I have found a side job that I know I enjoy doing, and will always make me happy.

What should I do?

Perhaps it is different for environmental science, but in many of the biological and physical sciences, a master's degree is not incredibly useful for employment -- a PhD is preferred (this preference is not necessarily something with which I agree). I would personally never suggest going to grad school and preparing to write a thesis if your heart's not in it -- it has to be a path you really REALLY want. It's quite common among scientists to take a gap year (or several) after undergrad before deciding to go back to grad school -- some additional experience can also make you a better applicant for schools (and scholarships!). I'd say take the gap year. If you miss the science, go back to school. If not, find a way to use your skills in a field and lifestyle that makes you happy.
I actually have found that Master's find jobs quicker than PhDs in biological sciences.  There is a glut of PhDs now, but a lot of jobs for Master's in industry.