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Work or Graduate School?

  1. Jul 7, 2007 #1
    Work or Graduate School??

    Hello all,

    I'm a 28 year old EE undergrad nontraditional student. I'm going to graduate in 1 year and 1 quarter... So that means I'll be done in December of 2008. I'm planning to specialize in signal processing.

    I thought about applying to grad school this year and then defer for a semester so I could start in early 2009. But since I will be able to do some research during this academic year, I wouldn't be able to use that on my applications. So I figure I should wait and apply for Fall 2009, which would probably give me a better shot of getting into a really good school. But this would give me an 8 month window from when I graduate to when I enter grad school.

    Also, even though I've gotten good aid for undergrad, I know that getting a masters degree is probably going to cost me a lot of $$$$. I also have a good amount of credit card debt accumulated over the last few years that I want to get rid of.

    So my question is, should I just forget about grad school for now and get a job for a few years? If I was in my early 20's, I think this is what I would do. But I'm getting sort of old, so it's been hard for me to decide. I'm at a top-notch private university with very good grades, so I think I have a shot of getting into a really good grad school like maybe Stanford or MIT. But is it worth it if it means I probably won't make any substantial income until late 2010??!?! (assuming I get my masters degree in a year) I mean, I'll already be over 30 years old!

    On the other hand, I worry that if I get a job, I'll end up never going to grad school... :yuck:

    Does anyone have any advice for this situation?

    Last edited: Jul 7, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 7, 2007 #2
    I'm an ME and a bit younger, but here's my 2 cents.

    I applied to grad schools for fall 07 and went to visit a few schools. I was surprised to see a lot more older people than I expected. Some were married and had kids. Also, I worked with a grad student last semester who's 34 and also has a kid, so I don't think your age should be a problem. Most schools admit only in the fall so you might have trouble applying for the spring. A friend of mine graduated in December, applied to grad schools in the fall and got a co-op for the spring/summer right before grad school. He got paid well enough to pay off his loans.

    Also, getting a masters should NOT cost you a lot of $$$$. Most students get financial aid as a TA/RA, but the only problem is that at the very top notch schools (top 5 or so), they most likely don't give financial aid for MS students.

    So, what I think you should do is apply to schools in Fall 09 and get a co-op for the spring/summer of 2009 (apply to many places and aim at the big companies). If you really like the co-op, you might be able to stay with it and continue working with your BS, but I think getting a MS is worth the investment (which is mostly opportunity cost since you also get paid a little as a MS student). If you don't get financial aid you can re-assess your situation. But applying to grad schools AND getting a co-op should keep all the doors open for you. Good luck :smile:
  4. Jul 7, 2007 #3
    I struggled with the same exact problem myself for the last 6 months. I graduated with my BSEE in May. I got a few job offers and I was not sure whether I should accept the offers and finally make some money, or head to graduate school and be a full time student again.

    Ultimately, I decided to take one more year to get my MSEE. If I decide that I'd like to work, I was told that a co-op would be available to me if I so desire. However, I imagine that it is hard to do a thesis while working.

    I believe that most people who get an MS while they work follow an option where they don't need to write a thesis. However, I think you'd have a hard time getting into a PhD program without an MS thesis.

    So, in the end, I'm taking the next year to get my MSEE and then I'll head to work and do my PhD part-time.
  5. Jul 7, 2007 #4
    Yeah, they like to save their money for PhD students. I was a TA as an undergraduate student, but I was not offered a position as an MS student. There are other ways to make money, but it's hard to get an RA as an MS student and very hard to get a TA position as a NEW MS student.
  6. Jul 7, 2007 #5
    Hmmm... So do you guys think it's worth it to try and go to a top 5 school with little/no aid if you get accepted? Or is it just better to go to a school that gives aid?

    Seems like a rather insidious choice!
  7. Jul 7, 2007 #6
    I've applied to the school I already attend (UMD), for graduate work. It's not top 5, but they will give me a full ride and 25-30k a year if im accepted. I have the grades to go to a top 5 school, but a place like MIT does not have money for MS students, mostly PhDs. So, Im not going to apply to a place that will put me in debt. At this point, I really dont care if my MS says MIT on it or a state school on it because I know lots of very smart and successful people at work that went to schools other than top 5 like MIT. If you get in and they pay for you, great go for it. If not, Id think long and hard about it. MIT is not a cheap place. Its, I think, 30k a year undergrad. Grad is always more expensive.

    Also, I dont plan/want to be a TA as a MS student if I get in, only an RA.

    Get work to pay for your MS degree.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2007
  8. Jul 7, 2007 #7
    I don't think it is. Go to a school that will give you aid. I applied to the MS program and stated that I intend to do a phd after I finish the MS (which is true) and got several financial aid offers, so just apply and see what happens...it's definitely worth the application fees.
  9. Jul 7, 2007 #8

    Dr Transport

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    Work, go to school part-time (maybe your employer will pay for you to get your advanced degree).

    Many employers look more favorably on your getting more educated after you start working for them because it looks as if you are trying to improve yourself for their benefit. Believe me I know, I started my latest position after getting my PhD and I have not advanced as fast as some of the junior engineers when it comes to getting really choice career options like leadership/management/program management training etc...

    One of the other things no one ever mentions is that getting ahead on your retirement savings thru 401K's etc can never be made up monetarily. For example, a friend of mine who got his BS then started working started building a nest-egg. I started 10 years later after getting my PhD and working part-time. Even though I make as much as he does, his 401K is about 3-5 times more and increasing by the minute faster than mine because of compound interest etc....I'll never make up that difference, he will be able to retire when he is 60 and me when I am 70 and I still will not have as much to live on afterwords.
  10. Jul 8, 2007 #9
    Dude, when I retire I'm moving to France. Free health care.
  11. Jul 9, 2007 #10
    Yeah right. If i were you, i would suggest to investigate that a bit more thoroughly. You "might" get disappointed. Just a small pieve of advice.

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