Why Working Before Your Master Degree Is a Good Idea

“There’s no way you’re going back to university after living off of a full-time salary once.” This was one of the things I was told when telling others about my plan to enter the workforce between Bachelor and Master degree studies. But I knew there were some good reasons to ditch a steady salary and go back to uni to do a master’s degree. Let’s talk about why I think working before doing a master’s degree is a good idea!

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Why Work Inbetween Degrees?

I completed a B.A. in International Business Studies in Germany, where it is the norm to get a Master’s in Management or a similar degree right after. If something is expected, it’s easy to fall into the trap of following a path without questioning it.

Lucky for me, I had to think twice because I wanted to apply for a Master’s in Management abroad and needed to find a way to pay for it. That’s where a year or two of full-time employment are going to come in quite handy.

At age 21, I became the youngest Product Manager in a FinTech company – without any formal IT education. I was in the position for about 1.5 years and ended up saving the amount I needed to pay for tuition.

But I got much more out of the experience than I had initially expected.

Here are 3 things that I learned (which ended up changing my career goals):

1. Which tasks I really enjoy doing and which topics I deeply care about

2. Whether my initial career aspirations were the right ones for me (they were not)

3. Which topics get me excited and don’t just sound interesting in theory

Why I Stuck to My Plan to Go Back to University

I enjoyed my job and had prospects for being promoted after about 1.5 years. Yet, when I got accepted into my dream program at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, I took the offer right away. In addition to my bachelor’s degrees, my chosen master’s program is now going to provide me with great education, a network of students and of international partner companies.

Overall, a master degree is a stepping stone, which can help you do one or all of the following things:

Readjust your career path

A master degree is an effective way to steer your career in a desired direction. Especially if you have been employed full-time and you’re already on a specific “path”, employers often expect you to look for similar positions. A degree can give your career a spin into a new direction, industry or specialization.

Become an expert and advance into leadership positions

It is important to note that practical on-the-job learning is very effective and a reason why professional experience is valuable. However, it is different from subject-matter expertise. If you are certain you want to build a career in a specific area, theoretical knowledge and an understanding of the scientific background make you a potential candidate for leadership or senior positions.

Hack your career

Depending on subject area, university and career goals, a higher degree can, statistically speaking, get you a higher pay and a quicker rise to leadership positions. However, in some fields the difference in yearly pay between a master and a bachelor degree is only a few thousand euros. So make sure to be well-informed about your chosen career path. Check out this article for more information on starting salaries in Germany.

What You Should Do If You Are Deciding Between a Well-Paid Job and Studying

1. Believe in yourself and in your own instincts. Other people will tell you it’s hard to get a job when you only have a Bachelor’s degree, that it is uncomfortable to give up a full-time income, and that getting accepted into your dream university is not realistic. They might be right. Nothing is easy or for free. But if you truly want something, you’ll find a way to get there.

2. Don’t be nervous about telling your employers that you’re going back university to get another degree. They will most likely understand that you are on your own career journey. They might even want you to return afterwards as they appreciate your effort to build expertise.

room chair lot, why working before your master degree is a good idea
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So why is working before going a masters degree a good idea? It can give you the working experience you need to be able to make the right decision for your master’s. Choosing the right subject is a lot easier if you know what you like doing and what not.

While the saying “There’s no way you’re going back to school after living off of a full-time salary once” is probably right in some cases, I don’t think this will stop you if you truly want to do a masters or go back to studying. It’s not about the salary but rather about what is right for you and the career path you want to take. 

Most importantly though, you should be looking forward to the experience of studying. If you do make the decision to study for another two years or more, it should bring you joy and excitement. This is not the right path for everyone. Many roads can lead to the same goal – going back to uni is just one of them.

This story was shared by Mikaela and edited by Ally. Have you ever considered working between degrees? Let us know in the comments! Do you struggle with what to study at university? Then make sure to check out this post!

If you want to share your story on sheCareer, reach out: shecareerblog@gmail.com

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