The great graduate debate

Students contemplate going to graduate school or straight to workforce

On April 29, 2014

  • SA Vice President Judy Mai, a senior health and human services major, was recently accepted into Stony Brook’s Higher Education Master’s program. The opportunity will allow her to work while obtaining the degree, which is entirely online. Yusong Shi, The Spectrum

Every year, graduating seniors debate between two options as a stepping-stone into their futures: going straight to graduate school or pursuing a job.

Questions of finances and potential unemployment weigh heavily in the minds of many soon-to-be UB graduates as they debate lunging into the professional world or continuing higher education. Students are faced with difficult choices, trying to decide whether the cost of a master's will be worth it once they enter their fields.

David Murphy-Longhini, a senior finance and management information systems major, originally had plans to attend graduate school at UB through a scholarship. The Information and Cyber Security Scholarship would have given him $25,000 a year to attend, and after completing the program, he would take a government job for two years.

Murphy-Longhini, however, was given two job offers - one from Tata Consultancy Services and the other from Ingram Micro - both prominent technology companies. He decided to take the offer from Ingram Micro as a business analyst.

"People are scared about putting themselves into that chasm given that they always hear about so many people not getting jobs," Murphy-Longhini said.

The unemployment rate for recent college graduates in 2011 was 12.6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Murphy-Longhini doesn't believe the same philosophy applies to all majors.

He said he was told in the business world, someone going straight to graduate school is "putting [their] money into more school before [they've] had business experience."

A study from the Georgetown University CenteronEducation and the Workforce in May 2013 reported architecture students have the highest unemployment rate with 12.8 percent. Students who studied elementary education, agriculture and health sciences had more promising statistics with less than 5 percent unemployment.

SA Vice President Judy Mai, a senior health and human services major, did not plan to attend graduate school but found a program that fit into her needs. She was accepted into Stony Brook's higher education master's program. The program is fully online and allows Mai to have a job while working toward the degree.

"This, for me, is the best of both worlds," Mai said.

Mai said she wanted a change from the educational world. She said the online aspect of the program allows her to work on her degree from any location while giving her the chance to work toward getting a job in a university setting.

Some students want to defer going to graduate school.

Babita Persaud, a senior communication design and psychology major, said she couldn't see herself going to graduate school right after graduation.

"It's a different commitment in grad school," Persaud said. "You can't just ... change your major every semester as we can in undergrad. In grad school, it's two years of intense work, and you have to be committed to what you want to do."

She wants to apply to different sets of jobs to have a variety of experiences before eventually applying to graduate school.

If a student knows exactly what he or she wants to do in graduate school, it would save a lot of time in the future, she said.

In a report from the Council of Graduate Schools, applications for admission to U.S. graduate schools increased 3.9 percent between fall 2011 and fall 2012.

Longhini said the choice depends on the kind of job offer, too. If someone would be able to make more connections after getting a master's degree and also have a better job offer afterward, he believes it is a better situation than staying at a less rewarding job for two years.

Persaud said the cost of graduate school was also a large factor in her decision.

The average amount of debt for those graduating with a bachelor's degree in 2012 was $29,400, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.

Longhini took the job at Ingram Micro because the salary will wind up being more than the scholarship for which he was applying. He said he does, however, want to go to graduate school sometime in the future and see if a company is willing to send him to a school.



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