Three Reasons to Get Work Experience Before Going to Grad School

Employers come to NYUAD a few times a year to recruit students.

Making a choice between graduate school and starting a career can come with huge commitments, and grad schools’ early application deadlines often add to the uncertainty and stress of life after graduation. But what if you can have both?

Many representatives from professional graduate programs who talk to NYU Abu Dhabi students about their programs actually recommend working before graduate school and their reasons make a whole lot of sense.

1. Working before professional graduate school is not the exception. It’s the norm.

Professional graduate schools develop their programs around the ultimate goal of preparing students for their careers after graduation. Therefore, class discussions often require students to use their previous professional experiences to strengthen otherwise theoretical debates. One representative from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) says that more than 50 percent of their incoming class enroll after 1- to 2-years of work experience, and these students tend to be more mature and benefit more from the classes.

2. Work experience helps you find the right fit with the right grad school.

An admissions officer from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) emphasizes that what schools look for in their candidates is “the fit.” With professional schools, that means candidates have to be certain about their passion in particular fields, and how exactly the school can help them achieve their career goals. SIPA has only 12 to 15 percent of its classes entering straight from undergrad, and these students are exceptional ones who demonstrate a continuous commitment in social change and public interest throughout their undergraduate education.

Students explore master's degree options at NYUAD's annual Graduate School Fair.

3. Work experiences increase your chance of getting a scholarship.

Money can play a huge role in the decision of attending graduate school. Contrary to PhD programs, professional schools often do not offer teaching assistant positions, and having a huge debt to pay upon graduation probably doesn’t sound appealing. Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (SFS) highly recommends their applicants get work experience because it significantly boosts their profiles for merit scholarship. The average SFS student is 26 years old, with four years of prior work experience. Strong scholarship applicants usually have transferable skills from their work experiences that prepare them to serve in a foreign country.

Finally, because graduate school is a huge commitment in terms of time and money, working before entering helps you to make a more informed decision about that investment.