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Should I Try Finding A Job Or Get Graduate Degree?

Fri Mar 20, 2009 8:06 am

So I am graduating in May with a double major in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering. I have been looking for jobs(not too hard) but so far no luck. Given the current economic situation it is harder to find a job in the field. Last summer several friends of mine graduated as mechanical engineers and found jobs fairly quickly. I want to work in the aerospace industry with the mechanical engineering degree as sort of a "plan B".

But lately I have been looking into graduate programs as well and it only takes a year and a half to get a master of engineering degree(no thesis). A graduate degree from what I know would mean a starting salary of about $15-20k more. I'm getting these numbers from people that work as engineers and also my professors.

So seeing as how jobs are hard to find anyways, would it be wise to go for graduate studies full time? A third option would be to hopefully find a job and then also go to school as well. However that increases the time to get the degree to at least twice as long. I will not be able to take 3 graduate level classes while also working full time. It would just be too much for me. Therefore it would take at least 3-4 years to get the degree. On the other hand actually WORKING is good experience. I have also already worked one summer during an engineering internship. I currently live in Chicago.

So I am kind of stuck here....any advice?
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RE: Should I Try Finding A Job Or Get Graduate Degree?

Fri Mar 20, 2009 8:35 am

It may just come down to simple money issues. Can you afford to go to grad school for however long it will take you to get the advanced degree without having a job? Maybe just get a job now (doesn't have to be your dream job, but in your field), gain work experience while at the same time saving up money to go back to school later to get your masters then. It's up to you as you know the specifics of your own situation...
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RE: Should I Try Finding A Job Or Get Graduate Degree?

Sat Mar 21, 2009 1:29 am

Are you looking across the country for a job? Personally, going to grad school full time versus going part time and working have their advantages. Going to grad school full time would probably give you a chance to take on a research project or thesis in a subject area of your choice. Going while working has the advantage in that oftentimes large companies will assist in tuition and you make a regular salary on top of any tax write-offs for being a student all the while getting valuable work experience.

From my personal hindsight I suggest that getting work experience is more important at this time than getting a degree. Companies want to hire people that can hit the ground running in these tough economic times... they don't want to spend thousands of dollars and countless hours training someone. However, having a graduate degree is a must have when times are good as this may be the only way to differentiate yourself when it's a job applicant market. I was lucky to be hired to my current position straight out of grad school in 2007, considering I hadn't worked a full-time job in my life and had no co-op or internship experience.

I believe smaller engineering firms provide newer practicing engineers the greatest exposure to technical work, however, the pay scales in many cases could be significantly lower for essentially the same position.

Good luck with your decision.
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RE: Should I Try Finding A Job Or Get Graduate Degree?

Sat Mar 21, 2009 3:52 am

It's really hard to make blanket statements either one way or another. It very much depends on your particular situation - financially, etc.

However, with the current economic climate, I'd be more inclined to look at grad schools if I was in your situation. If you can afford it, it certainly won't do you any harm.

Good luck either way.
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