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Grad School is Not an Escape

Grad School is Not an Escape

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

From a Monday New York Times article on the job market for new grads:

Liam O’Reilly, who just graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in history, said he had applied to 50 employers — to be a paralegal, a researcher for a policy organization, an administrative assistant — but he had gotten hardly any interviews. While continuing to search for something he truly wants, he has taken a minimum-wage job selling software that includes an occasional commission. “Had I realized it would be this bad, I would have applied to grad school,” Mr. O’Reilly said.


Grad school is not a way to prolong the day of reckoning.

You go to grad school if you want to pursue a career that requires it. You do not go to grad school for the hell of it, or because you don’t know what else you want to do, or because the job market is bad and it’s somewhere to hide out for a while.

Liam isn’t alone in thinking this way. I see countless job applicants with freshly minted masters degrees that they’re not going to use, and I see countless people making plans for grad school when they can’t explain why they need to.

Grad school is expensive. It’s time-consuming. And it generally will not make you more marketable, unless you’re going into a field that specifically requires a graduate degree. What it will do is keep you from getting work experience for that much longer, meaning that when you’re done, your peers who have been working full-time while you were in school will be more competitive than you. It might also limit you by requiring you to find a higher-paying job than you might otherwise need, in order to pay back those loans (without actually increasing your earning power). And if you apply for jobs that have nothing to do with your graduate degree, employers will think you don’t really want the job you’re applying for, since it’s not in “your field.”

Being a new grad entering this job market is scary. I can understand why staying in the warm bosom of academia a little longer would be appealing. But using grad school as an escape isn’t a good answer.

P.S. 50 applications isn’t that many for an entry-level candidate, especially when it apparently produced some interviews. Keep persisting!

What do you think? Should you take a job, any job, or go to grad school?