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Congratulations, you have just finished your undergrad, tossed your cap, and checked a box off for completion of a major life goal. Now it’s time to head off to grad school, get your MBA and land your dream job, right? Well, that’s one option, but life doesn’t really follow a bullet point outline format. Instead, you’re living your very own ‘choose your own adventure.’ The bad news is, unlike in the paperback edition after you “die,” you can’t just flip back to the previous section and make the opposite choice to continue with the narrative. Related: Should You Go Back To School? 4 Factors To Consider College is glorified in many ways, perhaps none more so as being a place where you can find out who you are while making mistakes. This is only true to a point, though—you can also completely screw the pooch—what you do immediately after college, whether it is grad school or diving into a career, will shape the rest of your adventure.

Why you should GET your master’s before jumping into a career...

There is not end all, be all reason for going or not going to grad school, but the fact is more of your peers are choosing to go. According to this graphic from Norwich University, from 2011 to 2012, almost 50% of MBA programs receive an increase in applications, and over 60% of MBA programs increased their program size. But, like your mom always said, just because all your friends are jumping off a cliff doesn’t mean you should, too. Perform a self-evaluation and ask yourself honestly, what are your reasons for wanting a master’s degree? If your school offers a joint undergrad and graduate school program, the decision to continue your education makes sense, especially in cases where the program allows you to complete your education faster saving time and money in the process. If you landed a job while completing your undergrad that will pay for your education or that offers education benefits, jump on that opportunity. Although many employers won’t pay for a program in full, often they are able to offer some repayment. Finally, even if you aren’t able to enter a joint program or secure any type of repayment, will the return on you education be worth the investment?
  • Assess the total cost of the program
  • Determine how long it will take you to repay that amount (factor in potential looming expenses—are you planning on getting married or trying to have a baby?)
  • How will you secure payment for the program
If you can’t answer these questions, or aren’t comfortable with the answers re-evaluate whether an MBA at this time is really your best option.

Why you should SKIP your MBA and focus on your career...

Not having a job lined up following graduation is not a good enough reason to go to grad school. Focus on your career and gain valuable professional experience. Some schools won’t even consider you for their MBA program until you have two years of professional experience, others might require up to as many as five years. Take this time to find out if your current career path is one you want to stay on. If you’re on the company fast track, devoting time to an MBA could actually be detrimental to your career. However, if you find after a few years you have plateaued or are unhappy that might be a better time to shift your focus to an MBA in order to get a better position or work with a different company. Do your research before committing to a program. According to Pepperdine University, specific managerial programs are projected to see greater growth than others through 2020. Management programs in general are on the rise, but the specialization you choose could either end up as a lucrative asset or a tremendous and costly detour. The ultimate takeaway when deciding to get your MBA or not is: will the debt and commitment be worth it? The only factor you have complete control over is finishing the program. After that you can’t guarantee you will get the position or paycheck you want. If the degree is still worth it even then, go for it. This post was originally published at an earlier date.

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