hire-me.jpgI can’t tell you how often soon-to-be college seniors ask me if they should bypass job-hunting in this crummy economy and go to graduate school instead. The feeling is they can put off having to fight tooth and nail in a tough job market with limited jobs, especially for Gen Y.

Well, I posed this question to my new intern Evie Hayman and she researched the issue. She came up with some directions for you grads-to-be, and for parents who may read this and pass it along to their kids.

evie.jpgBy Evie Hayman

Graduation is like ripping off a band-aid. College protects you from all the bumps and bruises of the real world for a few years and then all of a sudden you’re exposed to the world of working adults. As a senior at the University of Delaware, I am preparing for the moment I tear off my protection.

But what if I were to put off that pain like many of my peers who have decided to go to graduate school rather than look for a job? And can you blame them with a jobless rate at 8.9 percent and millions of people looking for work?

With unemployment still high and the job market not promising for new job-seekers, graduate school seems like a much better option to many soon-to-be graduates. For Kerry Flynn, a senior at Delaware, graduate school is an opportunity to decide exactly what she wants to do in her career while becoming more educated.

“I don’t know exactly what I want to do yet,” she said. “I think I could get a job [right now], but not in my area.”

At present, Flynn has applied to five graduate schools to pursue a degree in criminal justice. She is waiting to hear back on her acceptance. But even if she does get accepted, without a large enough scholarship she will be forced into the job market. “If I don’t get funding I will move back home and get a job doing anything,” she explained.

If she’s able to afford a graduate degree, Flynn believes it will give her more options than graduating in this job market. “I think it’s smart [to go to grad school]; I will be able to get a better job,” she said.

Another senior at Delaware, Kristen Pannullo, is getting ready to enter an exceptionally difficult job market: education. Pannullo is planning to look for a math education job in her home state of New Jersey. Although there is a shortage of math teachers in that state, education jobs are still hard to come by due to the recent budget cuts from the governor. As a result, Pannullo is not feeling at all positive about her job prospects. “I feel like I’m not going to find a job because there aren’t any jobs in education,” she said.

Unfortunately for Pannullo, graduate school isn’t really an option. “A lot of schools won’t hire you with a master’s and no experience,” she explained.

Like Flynn, if Pannullo’s plans don’t work out she might end up with a job unrelated to her degree.

“I will probably move back home and end up with a job in another field or wind up in another state I don’t want to be in,” Pannullo said.

According to Matthew Brink, director of the University of Delaware’s career center, many students are feeling like Pannullo. “Students have a higher level of anxiety and concern about the job market because of last couple of years,” he said.

But despite the job market, Brink would not recommend graduate school for everyone.

“If they would only be going to grad school because the job market is bad, that wouldn’t be as wise a strategy.” Instead, he recommends “having a regular and productive set of hours. Put together a job search strategy that includes set hours just like scheduling class. You still might land that wonderful entry level position.”

There is also a concern about being overeducated. “Sometimes what happens is, because you don’t have that experience first, you won’t be able to command the salary that a typical graduate would have with experience and a master’s,” he said.

Luckily for seniors like me who are planning to begin the job search, in the past graduates from Delaware have quickly found jobs. According to Brink, only 4% of the class of 2009 that went straight into the job market was still looking for a job six months after graduation.

National statistics show a slow improvement. A study from Michigan State University reported that companies are planning to increase hiring of bachelor’s candidates and decrease hiring of master’s candidates. Of the businesses in the study, 32% reported that they planned to hire new graduates during this academic year, a five percent increase from last year. In addition, sixty-one percent would not hire an experienced worker for a position reserved for a new graduate. mich-study.jpg

At this point, it is difficult to tell whether waiting to rip off that band aid by going to grad school will cause more pain than it prevents. As for me, I am preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.

(Evie is a senior at the University of Delaware majoring in English and political science. Her passions are writing and editing; and she’s the voice behind the Awkward Words blog.)

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