If you’re torn between taking a job or going to graduate school, consider the hybrid option of graduate assistant.
It’s March of your senior year of college, graduation is rapidly approaching and you are often plagued with the question, “What’s next?”
Ideally, we would all love to say that we are either backpacking around Europe or starting a great job with an amazing salary — the truth is most of us don’t have a single clue.
The two most common answers tend to be attending graduate school or entering the work force.
However, an opportunity that tends to be overlooked is becoming a graduate assistant, which gives students the opportunity to incorporate both options while earning a Master’s degree for free.
One of the most obvious benefits of becoming a graduate assistant is clear: free education. A free Masters degree will obviously save you a significant amount of money and will help put you ahead of many other candidates in the job market.
Besides a free degree, a graduate assistant position can help you transition into the “real world.”
While most recent graduates who enter the job market get a harsh reality check when they have to start waking up every day for a 9-5 job, those who become graduate assistants have the opportunity to use their position and its flexible hours to help adapt to a work environment and ease their body into getting used to work hours.
Another notable benefit of becoming a graduate assistant is that you can gain experience working in possible career fields you may someday want to pursue.
For Kevin Tyrone James, a 2011 graduate of St. John’s University, the overall appeal of the position is what drew him to stay at his alma mater and become a graduate assistant for the College of Professional Studies, while pursuing a MBA in executive management.
“(It was) the dynamic of my assistantship that made me want to stay and pursue my graduate degree,” said James. “For a while, I was always interested in working in different organizations in strategic planning and my assistantship in the College of Professional Studies allowed me to earn experience in that field while getting my education. It allowed me to experience the best of both worlds in the present moment.”
Another benefit of becoming a graduate assistant is that it allows students time to avoid the shaky state of the economy and job market. Lately it has made sense for more students to stay in school and wait for more jobs to open up.
“While I could have gotten a job right after I graduated, I wasn’t satisfied with the job market within my major,” said James. “I felt like I wanted more; I felt like I could do more. Another factor was that I wanted to explore my love for higher education and see if it could be a good fit for me as well. I was fortunate enough that St. John’s gave me the ability to do both.”
While James has been learning more about the higher education field through his assistantship position, Flor Arellano, a 2009 graduate of St. John’s University became a graduate assistant in Residence life and has loved her position.
“My position has given me free tuition, a meal plan and a furnished apartment,” said Arellano. “As a graduate assistant in Residence Life, I get to really interact with my residents and help them out. For example, when I first got here, I told my residents I was really good in history and if they needed help, they could ask me. One of my residents did take my offer and I helped her study for her midterm and she got an A on it.”
While these positions have given people the opportunity to learn more about fields and helped transition them into the real world, the financial benefits alone prove to be very useful to students who might have to deal with paying off student loans.
So for seniors who are approaching graduation and are in the midst of the debate whether to go to graduate school or enter the work force, be sure to look up the third option that doesn’t get mentioned often.
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