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Thread: Job or graduate school after graduation?

  1. #1
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    Job or graduate school after graduation?

    Hello everyone.

    First off, I've been reading these forums for quite some time now and have found them to be a very valuable resource, thank you to everyone who contributes to that.

    Currently, I'm finishing up an undergraduate degree in geography with an emphasis in planning and will be graduating in April. This past week, I was offered a job doing GIS work with a local commercial real estate company. I have been told that when I graduate, it will turn into a full time position. They have never had a GIS department before, and want me to start things up for them. The pay isn't great, but isn't bad either.

    Basically what it comes down to is that I am quite certain planning is what I want to end up doing. That being said, with the way the job market in the field is currently, what do you think is the better option? Getting a year or two of experience doing GIS work in the real estate industry and then perhaps going for a masters in planning, or going straight into a graduate program? I enjoy working with GIS and certainly wouldn't mind doing it for a while, but as I mentioned earlier, planning is what I would like to do long term.

    So, what do the people of Cyburbia think? I would love to hear actual planner's opinions regarding how useful this experience might be for a future planning career and also whether it would be wise to turn down a good job offer in this economy on the hopes of going to grad school and landing a planning position.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Ultimately it will be up to you to decide what your best option is, but you will hear a very common theme in planning and many other professions: experience trumps degrees. For many this is a catch-22 situation since you need the advanced degree to even get the desired experience. If you are getting an offer for a decent job now, my suggestion would be to take it.

    This is what I would consider:

    -Even if you don't like the job you have the experience on your Resume, and that will likely bring you better options when choosing a masters program
    -Accepting a job means you will make money. Going to grad school only means more debt, and no guarantee there will be a job waiting when you graduate
    -A lot of planning work will involve using GIS, so I think your job will present you with transferable skills in planning and/or other fields that use GIS
    -Real estate was hit particularly hard by the recession which has had a very adverse effect on planning. I am fairly confident 2012 is going to be a better year for the economy and subsequently planning, but there is still a glut of applicants compared to the number of available jobs.

    Grad school is a big decision, both financially and personally. I have every intention of eventually going back to school but I figure it's better to understand what I'm getting myself into before getting the grad degree and narrowing my options. With or without a grad degree, you're going to have to start from the bottom and work your way up, why not start now?
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    I was in a similar situation as you but I decided to go immediately into graduate school upon graduation. Now with my masters, I'm essentially doing the same job I could have done with my geography degree. I don't dislike GIS but I wanted to use it as a tool and not make a career out of it. But what I'm finding is GIS is now my most in demand skill since most planners don't possess the same level of GIS knowledge that I do. I would much rather do planning work but GIS is what pays the bills for me.

    Now as to whether to would hold off on graduate school. Had I had a job lined up elsewhere, I probably would delayed on graduate school a couple years. I don't regret the decision I made under the circumstances but I wish I had taken some time off just so I could get better idea of what interests in the field. It also not having a break can contribute to burnout in school which makes things harder than they need to be.

    Anyway, if I were in your situation. I'd definitely take the job. Planning school will always be there but this job opportunity won't. Not often will you be put in that level of responsibility so early in your career. If things don't work out there, you can always go on to graduate school.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chehalisite View post
    Hello everyone.

    ...

    So, what do the people of Cyburbia think? I would love to hear actual planner's opinions regarding how useful this experience might be for a future planning career and also whether it would be wise to turn down a good job offer in this economy on the hopes of going to grad school and landing a planning position.
    IMHO you should take any job offered.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    TAKE THE JOB. I cannot stress that enough. If you've been offered one, TAKE IT!

    I graduated in December and have been actively looking since then. Ive applied for well over 40 opportunities and have heard back from....0. I hold degrees in Planning and GIS, and still nothing. If you can grab one without having any real world experience, DO IT. Thats definitely whats hurting me right now as all I have is a 3 month internship.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian MD Planner's avatar
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    Agree, take the job! It is tough out there, and employers are looking for people with SKILLS and experience. And don't be afraid to translate those skills into other allied fields. Any job where you produce some sort of product, i.e, a map, an ordinance, a plan etc. trumps more schooling right now. Employers are doing more with less people, they don't have time to hire someone who will need have his hand held. You can always go to school, perhaps even a class or two a semester and pay for it out of pocket so you're not left with a mountain of debt when you graduate. That's my two cents.
    He's a planner, he's a dreamer, he's a sordid little schemer,
    Seems to think that money grows on trees . . .

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the responses everyone, it was nice to hear your opinions confirm what I was leaning towards. I did end up accepting the job, but plan on at least applying for graduate planning programs for the fall of next year.

    So, here is another question. Assuming the job goes well, would it be wrong to leave the position for grad school after such a short period of time when an employer has already invested quite a bit in me as an employee?

    Yes, I am looking ahead a quite bit here and will having to see how things go before making this decision. But as I mentioned earlier, I would like to get a masters in planning, preferably sooner than later and would definitely like to hear your opinions on this.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    I think you should get into your new job and work your pants off. Prove to them that you are dedicated, hardworking and a very valuable employee. Walking in with the thought that you are planning to leave them in a short time is not attractive, and your bosses will probably sense your attitude.

    A lot of schools that offer masters degrees in planning schedule core classes in the evenings, because they know a lot of working planners take these classes and earn their degree part time while on the job.

    My advice is, again, work your pants off at your new job, impress your bosses for the next year or two, and then when you are ready to apply for a planning masters (assuming this is still your choice of career) you can ask if they would subsidize or sponsor your masters degree. Many organizations have some kind of training/education budget that can be used towards tuition scholarships or reimbursements for deserving employees. Even if they don't have funding for you, they may let you take flexible time off to meet the requirements of your masters degree. And that's the goal in today's job market - keep your job while you pursue your next degree. Keeps your experience building while you're in school, keeps the paychecks coming while you incur extra expenses like tuition and books etc.

    Of course if you are independently wealthy, then by all means, quit your job and go to school full time. It's the best way to do it, if you can afford it. Also, lots of schools also have plenty of funding for grad students. Just think about how you break are going to up with your employer if you do, you may need them to be a reference for future opportunities.
    Last edited by Reefe; 09 Mar 2012 at 12:53 PM.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    I don't think there's really a right answer there. I honestly think it boils down to what makes you happiest.

    I'm actually in a similar situation myself. In my case, my boss already knew my intention of only staying till a certain opportunity arose. That opportunity has taken longer to materialize than I had anticipated but is still likely going to happen. Now my boss is interested in trying to keep me with a promotion. So I'm left with figuring out whether I want to stay out of loyalty or jump when that opportunity likely arises in the near future.

    After much thought, I've decided I'll probably jump when that opportunity arises. It's something I've always wanted to do and I may not get another chance at it. I really appreciate my boss's gesture but I think I'd regret passing up on that opportunity since I don't know what doors (if any) it will open. What makes it easier for me is knowing that my boss was presented with a similar opportunity early in her career but she passed on it and now seems to regret it. I know if I left, she'd be disappointed but she wouldn't hold against me since I'll be doing something I've always wanted to do.

    As for you, graduate school will always be there but your various life circumstances could change which might put it out of reach in the future. Though I see no harm in staying at the job a year or so to see how things go.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chehalisite View post

    So, here is another question. Assuming the job goes well, would it be wrong to leave the position for grad school after such a short period of time when an employer has already invested quite a bit in me as an employee?
    ... I would like to get a masters in planning, preferably sooner than later and would definitely like to hear your opinions on this.
    Quote Originally posted by Reefe View post
    I think you should get into your new job and work your pants off. Prove to them that you are dedicated, hardworking and a very valuable employee. Walking in with the thought that you are planning to leave them in a short time is not attractive, and your bosses will probably sense your attitude.

    ...

    My advice is, again, work your pants off at your new job, impress your bosses for the next year or two, and then when you are ready to apply for a planning masters (assuming this is still your choice of career) you can ask if they would subsidize or sponsor your masters degree. ...Of course if you are independently wealthy, then by all means, quit your job and go to school full time. It's the best way to do it, if you can afford it. ....
    We have problems in our economy that - if they magically get better - will take years to figure out to the degree that there will be full employment for planners. I'm not convinced this will happen. The days of doing what makes you happy are ending and most will have to do what it takes to not slide far backwards. Our daughter is being taught to make do with less as that likely will be the reality. Reefe has it right, IMHO.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Reefe View post

    My advice is, again, work your pants off at your new job, impress your bosses for the next year or two, and then when you are ready to apply for a planning masters (assuming this is still your choice of career) you can ask if they would subsidize or sponsor your masters degree. Many organizations have some kind of training/education budget that can be used towards tuition scholarships or reimbursements for deserving employees. Even if they don't have funding for you, they may let you take flexible time off to meet the requirements of your masters degree. And that's the goal in today's job market - keep your job while you pursue your next degree. Keeps your experience building while you're in school, keeps the paychecks coming while you incur extra expenses like tuition and books etc.
    This is probably the best advice given. Work the 2 years or so. Who knows, maybe you don't want or need to get a master's based on your experience (i didn't )
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  12. #12
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    I was faced with an idential scenario two and a half years ago. I opted to take a job in planning right after graduation which opened my doors into the profession. This allowed me to make some $$, evaluate the profession from the inside-out, and prepare accordingly for a grad school application process while devoting sufficient time (2+ years) to the organization that provided me my first professional opportunity.

    I have recently been admitted into several grad programs and can honestly declare that without these two years, I would have been a much weaker candidate for the admission committees. Taking the job will only make you a stronger candidate or you could bypass grad school if you believe it is unnecessary at that juncture.

    But your financial situation should play a vital role in your decision making. If you have the financial support to enter grad school now, then do it. If not, take some time to learn the industry from within and prepare for the application process.

    Best of luck!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Take the job.

  14. #14
    Students who go straight from an undergrad to a graduate program are putting themselves at a disadvantage (read comments above). You owe it to yourself to get out into the job market, not out of fear of being unemployed later, or being less marketable (those are valid concerns), but because you need the life experience. School is a microcosm of society and industry, hardly representative of "the way things are." You're "quite certain" planning is what you want to do? That's not a good enough reason to pursue a grad degree in planning. Desire has little to do with opportunity. This isn't some calling where "if you want it bad enough, it will happen."

    The only circumstance where I would recommend getting a grad degree in planning is if you are already employed as a planner and need the degree to advance your career and/or your employer will pay for it while you continue to work.
    Last edited by chocolatechip; 01 Apr 2012 at 2:49 PM. Reason: spelling

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