Author Topic: Some college/post-college advice needed  (Read 6139 times)

Cwadda

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Some college/post-college advice needed
« on: October 12, 2014, 06:21:56 PM »
Hi all,

So I'm in my junior year of college pursuing an Environmental/Geology degree and I'm trying to plan things for after I finish my undergrad degree.

The main question I face is this: I am well on pace to graduate a semester early and I have several options whether I decide to do so.

If I graduate a semester early (next fall) then
Options/Pros/Cons:
-The cost of school for the year is divided in half. This would be around $13,000 in savings. My parents and I split all costs so we would each be saving $6,500. I'd like to graduate debt free and this would help achieve that goal. It would also take a bit of the financial burden off my parents (I really want my dad to retire soon).

-I may be able to start grad school early. I basically need a grad degree for my field. I've talked with dozens of professionals and it's basically unanimous advice to go for the Master's degree right away. But the con is my undergrad would be cut short and "not getting the full experience"? I also am not 100% sure what I want to get a Masters degree in yet.

-I have a job offer/career offer from my current employer already. They would be willing to pay for my grad school or hire me right away. The con is that I don't want to feel obligated to work for my employer if I don't like the work enough or if I want to move to another area. I would probably be able to get funding through TA/labs to reduce costs regardless of what my employer covers.

-I could apply for a Residential Assistant position at my university (and a very good chance at getting the position). This would cover half of college costs and I would be able to stay for the full year, take extra classes for technical skills, pick up a minor, etc. But this is also a very time-consuming job.

So this is kind of poorly written and my thoughts are pretty scattered but the short sequence of events is this:
-I need a Masters degree for the best career prospects and I have the resources to get it cost effectively. I'm figuring 3 semesters is enough time to find out what the degree would be.
-I am able to graduate a semester early and save $. I can also take up an RA position, save $ and stay for 4 full years.
--> What do I do?

I'm happy to answer any questions as they come up. Thanks!


Peach Stubble

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2014, 06:25:37 PM »
I vote for graduating early and pursuing your professional degree. I would consider the option to have it paid for by an employer depending on the cost of obtaining the degree. How much will the degree cost?? What are the terms of employment if your potential employer is to pay for your continued education?

Peach Stubble

Cwadda

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2014, 07:43:54 PM »
I'm thinking the graduate school would cost about 50k and that's with no department funding. I've had some friends say they've gotten full funding and have gone into very little debt as a result. I think the terms of employment are working for them when possible (paid though) throughout getting the degree and then a 1 year commitment after I get the degree. What I'm not sure about is if I have to get the degree of my employer's choice (like in Certified Industrial Hygiene) although I don't think they would have me get a specific degree.

thedayisbrave

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2014, 07:53:14 PM »
I think the terms of employment are working for them when possible (paid though) throughout getting the degree and then a 1 year commitment after I get the degree. What I'm not sure about is if I have to get the degree of my employer's choice (like in Certified Industrial Hygiene) although I don't think they would have me get a specific degree.
I would get this question resolved asap.  I was one class away from graduating early but I ended up moving back home for my last semester and taking the last 3 credits online to finish up the degree.  I worked full-time as well.  I feel like sometimes the "college experience" is over-hyped and just an excuse for people to stay irresponsible for as long as possible.  I would personally finish a semester early and take the offer from the employer to pay for the Master's.  That way you already have a built-in job after completing your grad degree and your commitment is not long at all... 1 year is nothing! If you don't like the job after your year-long commitment is up, then leave and move onto something else.  But first step is getting all the specifics sorted out about what your employer expects so you can make the best decision for you.

mozar

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2014, 08:00:36 PM »
+1 for graduating early. The "college experience" is b.s. It's hard to know this w/o any job experience yet, but a job offer right out of college is an unusual thing in this economy.

Sarita

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2014, 08:08:48 PM »
+1 to graduate early.  I understand your hesitation to get your employer to pay for graduate school, given the hold they may have on your life afterwards.  My experience (as a person with a Masters and as an HR professional who has been involved in hiring countless people) is that graduate school is much more meaningful if you have a bit of work experience under your belt.  1, you can better apply the learnings to your work and 2 you are more attractive to future employers.  If you aren't sure what you are interested in yet, work for awhile first (1-2 years) and see if you can get exposed to various areas with your current employer.

Congrats on getting such a good start on your working life.  It speaks well of your smarts and work ethic.

Cwadda

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2014, 08:14:03 PM »
+1 for graduating early. The "college experience" is b.s. It's hard to know this w/o any job experience yet, but a job offer right out of college is an unusual thing in this economy.

I started as an intern for my current employer. Hourly pay with practically unlimited hours + overtime, expenses paid for, certifications/exams paid for, LOTS of learning experience. By the summer I had just as much responsibility as people with degrees - so I'd consider it work experience. I'm hoping for a bonus, too...No doubt it's been a really good gig especially for the experience but I don't know if I want to keep doing it with other options out there. It's very difficult to move up in the interesting/better paying work quickly without a Master's. A lot of the guys with degrees are still on my entry-level even after a few years.

I'm liking these takes on "college experience". Keep 'em coming!
« Last Edit: October 12, 2014, 08:17:29 PM by Cwadda »

JJsfr

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2014, 10:20:36 AM »
Is the master's going to be in geology or environmental geology? This is important. If you haven't decided, pick a research area that lends itself to both environmental and industry. It's much easier to be a geo in environment than an environmental geo in oil&gas and not do regulatory work.

What does the offer look like from your current employer? Have you pitched your resume to other similar companies? It's much easier to find a great internship after being able to prove that you've already done one. With this upcoming summer, you may have an opportunity to switch your post-undergrad prospects to a more desirable line of work (and for possibly better pay).

Also, it is not abnormal to work in oil & gas as a geo then swap to environmental after you're burned out from the long days/weeks.

As long as the employer's commitment post grad school isn't obscene (>4 years) to pay for your grad school, go for it. I understand that having work experience is great between undergrad/grad, but in this field it doesn't matter as much.If you're spending your summers/free time on projects, then you should be fine. Even if you do want to swap away from environment, a signing bonus with a new company can cover the grad school $.

Another vote for finishing early. You've got a job lined up. Why wait?

« Last Edit: October 13, 2014, 10:24:15 AM by jsfr »

Cwadda

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2014, 10:45:55 AM »
Is the master's going to be in geology or environmental geology? This is important. If you haven't decided, pick a research area that lends itself to both environmental and industry. It's much easier to be a geo in environment than an environmental geo in oil&gas and not do regulatory work.

What does the offer look like from your current employer? Have you pitched your resume to other similar companies? It's much easier to find a great internship after being able to prove that you've already done one. With this upcoming summer, you may have an opportunity to switch your post-undergrad prospects to a more desirable line of work (and for possibly better pay).

Also, it is not abnormal to work in oil & gas as a geo then swap to environmental after you're burned out from the long days/weeks.

As long as the employer's commitment post grad school isn't obscene (>4 years) to pay for your grad school, go for it. I understand that having work experience is great between undergrad/grad, but in this field it doesn't matter as much.If you're spending your summers/free time on projects, then you should be fine. Even if you do want to swap away from environment, a signing bonus with a new company can cover the grad school $.

Another vote for finishing early. You've got a job lined up. Why wait?

I'm leaning towards just a Geo Masters right now for the reasons you explain. I'm currently in undergrad research doing Geo/Chemistry things right now.

The offer from my employer is looking like having grad school paid for and being hourly until I have the Masters degree. The guys at my level are still hourly with Bachelor degrees and have mentioned that the learning experience is great, but the pay isn't. I'm thinking this is because you can easily become stuck at a technician level with just a B.S. degree.

I haven't sent out my resume to other similar companies. Do you mean send out to more environmental consulting firms like I'm in now? Or send to geo type firms?

Yes, exactly. I spent the entire past summer on a huge project and my breaks have consisted of going to a number of smaller sites. The company I work for has a sub-surface sector and an anything-above-surface sector. I've only been involved with the upper portion so far. I'm looking to get some experience in the geo part of the company over winter break.

JJsfr

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2014, 12:03:53 PM »
Send out your resume to other non-environmental firms if you don't like the line of work you are currently in to possibly find a new upcoming internship.

It sounds like you have a great arrangement with your current employer, so don't do anything to compromise that. If you do decide you want to wait on the masters, go ahead and circulate it within the field because you'll likely end up with a better starting position with another company.

You can also speak to your employer about exploring other sectors within your company (e.g., the sub-surface side). They may be amenable, they may not be.

As far as your coworkers go, they usually are "stuck" at that technician level until they change companies to move into a new role. It's hard to break that barrier within the same company. Get that experience now, get the masters, and then start at the next rung.

eyePod

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2014, 12:28:29 PM »
I like the company paying for your masters. If it's a small company, there'd be some guilt if you just ditched after getting it. If it's a large one, then who the hell cares, milk 'em. Work is work and most of it isn't that fun unless you're doing it for yourself. But even then, it's still work. I find that the people I work with make the job vs the work. If they're good, then whatever we're doing isn't that bad.

retired?

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2014, 01:52:38 PM »
Sounds like you will have the "full experience" or close enough.  It's overblown regardless.  Finish early. 

How explicit is the employer's plan to support MS degree?  Larger firms will likely spell out what happens if you do not sign on with them after the MS degree.  If you have to pay back the full amount if you stay less than a year, then stay a year.  Time flies.

I would take all the funding/assistance offers you can get.  The world understands that people change their minds.  As long as you enter into the agreement in good faith, then it's fine change your mind later.

If you are starting grad school in the spring, then make sure the intro level courses are offered then since most students will be starting in the Fall.

RunHappy

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2014, 01:57:54 PM »

-I have a job offer/career offer from my current employer already. They would be willing to pay for my grad school or hire me right away. The con is that I don't want to feel obligated to work for my employer if I don't like the work enough or if I want to move to another area. I would probably be able to get funding through TA/labs to reduce costs regardless of what my employer covers.


I like this option.  It gives your more work/resume experience, your employer pays for your education which saves you and your parents money.  Win-Win in my opinion.

Cwadda

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2014, 03:47:02 PM »
I like the company paying for your masters. If it's a small company, there'd be some guilt if you just ditched after getting it. If it's a large one, then who the hell cares, milk 'em. Work is work and most of it isn't that fun unless you're doing it for yourself. But even then, it's still work. I find that the people I work with make the job vs the work. If they're good, then whatever we're doing isn't that bad.

It is a small company and I do have a relative who holds a higher up position. On the flip side, I've been making for the company many times what I'm getting paid. There's no doubt the company is making huge profits on me.  That's just how it works.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2014, 03:50:56 PM by Cwadda »

JJsfr

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2014, 08:37:18 PM »
Be careful if family is involved . Heck, you might consider talking to him/her about your questions.

Cwadda

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #15 on: October 13, 2014, 10:22:46 PM »
I am planning on talking to him about it. And I know he will be very open about it, and will try to help me to the best of his ability.

soccerluvof4

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2014, 04:23:06 AM »
Take the Job and let them pay for your degree. The commitment is small in the big scheme of things if you don't like it and who knows you might. Their the ones offering it so I would jump at it. I'm assuming your relatively young and very few people stay in there first job forever anyhow and the company knows this but is willing to take the risk.  No one can say anything and you should feel no guilt if you work out your commitment and move on. Its there deal.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2014, 06:49:25 AM »
I would finish early and take the job. I had a great college experience, but I finished in 3 years and could easily have finished in 2.5 if I hadn't dicked around so much my first year.

The only way I wouldn't take the offer is if the degree required would hamstring you in a speciality you have no interest in, but it doesn't sound like this is the case.

rocksinmyhead

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2014, 08:00:06 AM »
Okay, I don't have time to read all the responses right now but seeing your name I realized you asked me to PM you about a geology MS a while back and I never did!!! D'oh! I'm a jerk.

I will gladly PM you with more info if needed but here are my thoughts.

You say you are getting a geology/environmental degree bachelors... what field are you thinking you want to go into? And what masters degree would you be getting? If you want an MS in geology, you should not be paying for it. I can't really emphasize this enough. It doesn't matter if an employer funds it (though this is less common among people I know), or if the funding comes from somewhere else. Do not pay for a research degree in the sciences! Find somewhere they will pay you. If you live like a mustachian/grad student, an MS in geology should not cause you to incur additional debt. I threw money away like a crazy person when I was in grad school (pre-MMM), and still didn't add to my considerable debt from undergrad.

(updated to add, I just saw your post about the Certified Industrial Hygiene degree so maybe none of this is relevant... if so I apologize)

Is the master's going to be in geology or environmental geology? This is important. If you haven't decided, pick a research area that lends itself to both environmental and industry. It's much easier to be a geo in environment than an environmental geo in oil&gas and not do regulatory work.

Yes! This! I got a job in oil & gas with a totally unrelated thesis, but I also got turned down by a lot of companies (plus that was a few years ago when times were pretty flush, oil prices are dropping like a rock right now and gas has already dropped). Don't get me wrong, I loved my thesis and since it all worked out I wouldn't change a thing, but picking a research focus with your future goals in mind will make life much easier.

Also, it is not abnormal to work in oil & gas as a geo then swap to environmental after you're burned out from the long days/weeks.

This is actually good to hear, I would eventually like to get out of oil & gas for geographic reasons, but I'm also intrigued by this statement because I was under the impression that entry level environmental jobs were WAY worse in terms of long hours and travel. Am I totally off base? (that would be good to hear too)

If you are starting grad school in the spring, then make sure the intro level courses are offered then since most students will be starting in the Fall.

Ooh this is a really good point too. I know in my program it would have definitely been a disadvantage/somewhat awkward to start in the spring, although people did it.

JJsfr

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2014, 12:10:35 PM »

Also, it is not abnormal to work in oil & gas as a geo then swap to environmental after you're burned out from the long days/weeks.

This is actually good to hear, I would eventually like to get out of oil & gas for geographic reasons, but I'm also intrigued by this statement because I was under the impression that entry level environmental jobs were WAY worse in terms of long hours and travel. Am I totally off base? (that would be good to hear too)

You are correct that entry level env jobs can be way worse in terms of long hours and travel, especially if you're a good field guy and they know it (or if their client in the middle of nowhere North Dakota likes you). If you work off the bat for one of the big environmental contractors you can expect to be on the road 50% or more of the time for your first few years.

The difference between industry and environment comes into play after you transition, are too expensive to be "entry-level" and shipped out to the field for weeks on end, but at the same time have some skills or expertise that can be used in the environmental sector (e.g., project management, hydrogeology, regulation). The private side promises better pay (think work 50-60 but get paid for 40 or whatever your budget allows), but the public side provides better flexibility for lower pay. It all depends on your responsibilities. It may take you a few tries to get to a position you actually enjoy doing if you transition.

However, you no longer have drilling engineers calling you at 4 am on a Sunday letting you know that the well went in just fine.

Cwadda

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Re: Some college/post-college advice needed
« Reply #20 on: October 17, 2014, 09:40:13 AM »
Okay, I don't have time to read all the responses right now but seeing your name I realized you asked me to PM you about a geology MS a while back and I never did!!! D'oh! I'm a jerk.

I will gladly PM you with more info if needed but here are my thoughts.

You say you are getting a geology/environmental degree bachelors... what field are you thinking you want to go into? And what masters degree would you be getting? If you want an MS in geology, you should not be paying for it. I can't really emphasize this enough. It doesn't matter if an employer funds it (though this is less common among people I know), or if the funding comes from somewhere else. Do not pay for a research degree in the sciences! Find somewhere they will pay you. If you live like a mustachian/grad student, an MS in geology should not cause you to incur additional debt. I threw money away like a crazy person when I was in grad school (pre-MMM), and still didn't add to my considerable debt from undergrad.

(updated to add, I just saw your post about the Certified Industrial Hygiene degree so maybe none of this is relevant... if so I apologize)

Is the master's going to be in geology or environmental geology? This is important. If you haven't decided, pick a research area that lends itself to both environmental and industry. It's much easier to be a geo in environment than an environmental geo in oil&gas and not do regulatory work.

Yes! This! I got a job in oil & gas with a totally unrelated thesis, but I also got turned down by a lot of companies (plus that was a few years ago when times were pretty flush, oil prices are dropping like a rock right now and gas has already dropped). Don't get me wrong, I loved my thesis and since it all worked out I wouldn't change a thing, but picking a research focus with your future goals in mind will make life much easier.

Also, it is not abnormal to work in oil & gas as a geo then swap to environmental after you're burned out from the long days/weeks.

This is actually good to hear, I would eventually like to get out of oil & gas for geographic reasons, but I'm also intrigued by this statement because I was under the impression that entry level environmental jobs were WAY worse in terms of long hours and travel. Am I totally off base? (that would be good to hear too)

If you are starting grad school in the spring, then make sure the intro level courses are offered then since most students will be starting in the Fall.

Ooh this is a really good point too. I know in my program it would have definitely been a disadvantage/somewhat awkward to start in the spring, although people did it.

I'm thinking of either staying in the environmental field or switching over to geology, which is related. That's why I'm going for the combo degree and then getting a Master's in what I find most interesting. Hopefully I can figure that out in the next 2 semesters!

Graduating early seems like the best option right now. I may also still apply for the RA position. I can always turn it down if I get it, change plans, or don't like the assignment.

Thanks Mustachians!