Should You Start Working or Continue Studying?

The dilemma facing many fresh graduates these days is whether to enter the workforce or to stay in school to pursue a higher degree. With a myriad of factors to consider and a highly competitive labour market out there, making the correct choice can seem a daunting and tough task.

By Azhar Jalil
All is not lost though. With knowledge of what’s ahead, some soul-searching and a little bit of luck, making the right first move in the next phase of your life may not be as hard you think.


Start working

Pros:
Getting a head start
In fields such as IT and engineering, practical experience is much more highly valued than paper qualifications. A head start in business and marketing can be priceless too.

See if the shoes fit
Starting early gives you the chance to immerse yourself in the industry and find out if it’s really your cup of tea.

Build your résumé
Working right after studying offers you the chance to bulk up your résumé with projects and activities that would make you more attractive to the next employer.

Cons:
Competition
Others with similar paper qualifications will be vying for the same jobs. With no distinctive advantage, securing a job will be that much harder.

Lower pay
Those with only a bachelor’s degree typically start on lower pay than their counterparts with higher degrees.

Poor prospects
Promotions will come slower with only a bachelor’s degree. This is especially true in specialised fields such as teaching and senior positions in the civil service.


Go for that higher degree

Pros:
Opportunity
While a master’s degree isn’t a guarantee of securing a stable job, it will give you a higher chance of success.

Higher starting pay
Master’s degree holders can expect to draw a higher initial salary in recognition of their advanced qualification.

A leg up in the paper chase
The civil service is well-known for placing a high value on paper qualifications. A relevant master’s degree can accelerate your career
greatly in this sector.

Academic value
Master’s degrees, especially research-based ones, will be beneficial if you’re intending to pursue an academic career track such as in
R&D. You’ll also be one step closer to achieving a Ph.D.

Cons:
Lack of experience
In technical industries locally, fresh master’s graduates are seen as over-qualified and deficient in practical knowledge, making them less valuable than others with lower qualifications but with more relevant work experience.

Commitment
Further studies require substantial financial and academic commitment. Research-based master’s programmes can be very intensive.

Too specialised
A master’s degree holder may be deemed too specialised, making it harder to find a job outside of the degree’s specialisation.


Whether you work or continue studying is a highly personal decision. So while we can’t tell you exactly where to go from here, we can give you the following tips:

Map your future Having a sense of purpose is critical to making the right decision. Do you intend to remain a specialist in your field or are you eyeing that management post? Or is money your primary motivation? Assess your priorities and come up with a plan.

Be aware Find out what the educational and experience requirements are in your chosen line of work and the industry in general. This will help you to further customise your plan. Also, do study specific market demands to see if your investment will pay off.

Bulls and bears The state of the economy can also have an impact on whether you should go back to hitting the books. Typically, a booming economy creates jobs with workers feeling secure and raking in the accompanying bonuses and benefits. Wouldn’t want to be stuck in a lecture theatre then would you?

Change is the only constant Know that the degree you have won’t be relevant forever. Information is regularlybeing discovered and updated, making your knowledge almost obsolete after some time. Being in a Knowledge Based Economy (KBE) such as Singapore’s makes upgrading even more crucial.

Do your research Look up the further education programs you’re keen on; some require you to possess outstanding grades, others demand working experience of at least two years before granting you admission. For good reason too – candidates with work experience have proven to be able to apply themselves better in the course.

What’s in a name? Credentials from the right school would give you even more of an edge in the cutthroat paper chase. Be warned though - premium MBAs from established institutions, such as INSEAD and Wharton, demand premium prices as well.

Check your pockets Further studies require a significant financial investment to the tune of a 5-digit sum, more if you’re after an MBA. Working right after getting that bachelor’s degree on the other hand can give you a financial head start though. Do some bankbook balancing and see if you’re financially ready.

Is it worth it? Use course fees, current relevant wages and other information to calculate the returns from investing in pursuing further studies right after completing your degree. Doing so will allow you to determine which path is more worthwhile for now.

Touch your heart Can you really commit? Full-time Masters’ programmes typically take between one to two years while a part-time course can take as long as four. Add to that, nights and weekends burnt on research and reports and you’ll be in for a whale of a time.

Seek help Still having trouble resolving the issue? Approach your university’s career centre where counsellors are on hand to help you weigh the benefits and pitfalls of both
paths or even offer alternate career routes.


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