While applying or considering to apply for MS/PhD in USA, one often wonders - Is NOW the RIGHT TIME?
How much does work work experience matter in MS applications?
Since you can enroll for MS directly after finishing college or after few years of work experience, you need to understand which one is better. Unfortunately, there is no standard answer. Here are the two important questions you need to ask yourself:
- Am I ready now?
- Will it help my career if I work now and join MS later?
Let’s look at these in detail and how these may affect your timing for graduate school. You might fall into one of these two categories-
1. I feel ready to take up the challenge now -
- Fresh graduate from the college, you are pumped up to conquer advanced courses and further your knowledge. Some people lose vigor for studies once they start earning. If that’s the case, you are better off going to graduate school directly after college.
- If you are a working professional, you might be looking to switch careers now and MS can help you with it.
- If you are working and can put forth a great application to get into one of the top universities now, it is the time to apply.
2. I shall get some work experience before MS as it might help my career -
Many students wonder if they should wait and get some real world experience before joining MS. The questions that you need to ask yourself are:
- Can you get into a much better school by gathering more work experience?
- Does better school mean better career prospects?
- If it is not going to make much difference whether you study at a 45th ranked school (that you can realistically get into after some work experience) or 55th (that you can get into now), it may not make sense to wait and work. But if you can get into 12th ranked school a year later by joining a job that will greatly improve your application profile as opposed to settling for a 40th ranked school now, it might be a good idea to wait.
- Is it better to join MS early (even by compromising on the school) so that you can start earning higher earlier?
Some reasons you might want to do MS before work experience:
- Fewer financial and personal responsibilities mean that you can devote the required time and commitment to graduate school.
- Assuming that you can land higher paying jobs after MS (especially if working in USA), the earlier you can finish MS, the earlier you can start earning more.
Reasons to pursue Masters (MS) after work experience:
- You are not financially ready to make such a commitment and need to earn more before venturing upon MS.
- Your profile is not strong enough and some more work experience can help you get into much better schools than what you might get into now. Since higher ranked schools mean more chances of scholarship and better paying jobs, it might be worthwhile to wait to be admitted into them than going to a lower ranked school with limited prospects now.
- You are not fully decided on MS yet and working a couple of years more will help you in making that decision.
Lets look at some of these questions in detail -
Will work experience help me get into good schools for MS?
First of all, good is subjective. What is a good or bad school depends on your ranking criteria and inclinations. Lets determine if work experience can help you get into higher ranked schools.
The answer is – surprisingly, not always. But mostly, yes. It means that work experience is like an added qualification and carries some weight just like your GPA, GRE score and application documents do. But this one is NOT mandatory (it will be little more important for Management based programs such as MIS, MEM etc than technical MS). So, a students without work experience is NOT at a disadvantage in MS applications. Again, let me bring to your notice that this is very different in case of MBA. But if someone has relevant work experience, then they can get some extra points and might be preferred over another applicant with similar profile otherwise but no work experience. The keyword here is – relevant.
Should I do MS after 2 years of work experience?
Not all kind of work experience will enhance your profile. I am calling the one that will as relevant work experience. It is the experience accumulated in the same field in which you are applying. So if you are applying for Mechanical Engineering, your experience in mechanical industry (engineering role in auto firms etc) will help but your experience as a radio jockey probably won’t. Another thing to consider might be the length of experience – too short a work experience can only do so much while 1-2 years are a good period to be considered.
Related Discussion: Is it a good idea to do MS after 10 years of work experience?
Shall I pursue MS right after college or wait and get some work experience first?
This completely depends on your profile. Here’s how I look at it. You can obviously get better quality and higher paying jobs after finishing MS from a good university. So, why delay that and waste time on comparatively lower kind of work experience before MS? As we discussed earlier, work experience can help you get into better ranked universities. So, if your profile right upon finishing college is not able to get you into good-best schools, you might consider getting some good work experience and apply in a year or two – again, note that only good and relevant work experience will help you. So, make sure your work profile aligns with your graduation goals. But if your profile is already good enough to get you into Top 50 schools, why wait?
I have a good job offer in hand, should I still go for MS?
Is it your dream job? Then, no, you don’t need to pursue higher studies (which is like introspecting what is it that you want in life). But most likely, you don’t get dream job right away after finishing college. Then, contemplate whether this is a job role which will inch you closer to your dream and enhance your profile more than what an MS would do. For e.g. if you are an IITian with great offer from Big 3 consulting firm or Facebook, yeah working there can make more sense because even if you want to pursue Grad School later on, this work experience can enhance your candidacy much much more. Now, if you are choosing between Facebook and MIT – I would say you are already a rockstar, so whatever you do will be right! :)
While it’s ok to have 1-3 years of work experience, more work experience doesn’t help you incrementally into getting into a better program. So, decide as early as you can after graduating whether MS is something you want to do or not. This is very different from MBA where work experience is much more helpful and important.
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