11 May 2015

Fresh Graduates: A Working Career or Higher Degree?

As you emerge into the world with your newly-minted bachelor’s degree, it can be difficult to decide on your next step. For those among you who are raring to begin earning your own keep, you’ve probably already begun scouring the job market for promising opportunities.

However, many among you will also struggle to decide if you should enter the job market or further your education with a higher degree. As university degrees become increasingly common – university graduates constituted 27 per cent of Singapore’s resident population in 2013 – the need to attain a higher qualification in order to become more competitive appears more pressing than ever.

Nevertheless, the thought of postponing financial independence for a few years may also deter many of you. So should you make a beeline for that new job opening or go for a higher degree? We unpack both options to help you make the best decision for yourself.

Getting Work Experience
When you’ve just come out on the other side of almost 16 years of formal education, you can hardly be blamed for never wanting to look at a textbook again. As a fresh graduate in need of work experience, it’s not a bad idea to gain some real-world experience by joining the workforce.

You will also have taken the first step towards financial independence and placed your foot on the first rung of your career ladder. And when you’re unsure of just what to do with your life – as many fresh graduates often are – it’s probably wise not to spend another few years in school accruing esoteric knowledge in a niche area. Your first job will keep you grounded and enable you to decide what you want in your career and life – after all, there’s no better advisor than experience!

The Benefits of Education
However, there are plenty of postgraduate degrees that are designed to equip students with the skills they need to do well in their chosen fields. For instance, the Singapore Management University’s Master of Science in Innovation is targeted at corporate managers, creative art professionals and entrepreneurs who intend to advance innovation in their fields. Similarly, its Master of Tri-Sector Collaboration equips leaders from businesses, governments and civil society with the skills to engage in meaningful collaborations.

With qualifications like these that aim to confer real-world skills and practical knowledge, a postgraduate degree can provide you with a considerable boost in your career. In addition, there are the intangible benefits of graduate school, such as greater opportunities for intellectual growth and the chance to learn more about your area of interest and take on more advanced jobs.

A graduate degree will qualify you to work at the highest skill levels in your field, and will bring with it better remuneration and satisfaction from being a true expert at what you do.

Choose for Yourself
Nevertheless, the benefits of choosing a graduate degree over a job or vice versa will not appeal to everyone. With countless factors in play such as individual financial circumstances, the nature of the industry and the health of the job market, it is difficult to claim that one option is better than the other.

For instance, a graduate whose family requires additional financial support will likely choose to work instead of remain in school. Conversely, someone in more secure financial circumstances may choose to pursue a higher degree in the name of personal enrichment or skills-upgrading, or simply to wait out a bad job market.

Whatever the reason, you should choose the option that best satisfies your personal goals. When you are sure about what you hope to achieve, the right choice for you will become clear.