Choosing between a job and graduate school

Hi, I am Rayhana. I am in a bit of a dilemma. I am in my final year of B.SC in chemical engineering. I completed 6 credits in petroleum engineering because I really wanted to get a masters in petroleum engineering. But in a campus recruitment I got a accepted as a management trainee in supply chain at Unilever. It is a very well paying job. Now I also have the opportunity to go to Texas A and M for a masters in petroleum engineering but it will cost me about $12500 per year which I will need to borrow from a relative. Now I could work for two years and then pursue in petroleum eng. in which case I'm afraid going back to studying after a break may be very difficult. Again I don't know if it would be right or wise to give up such a good job offer (they only pick one student for this post every year) and borrow money. Suggestions from someone in this field will be much appreciated. Thank you.
posted by Rayhana, Dhaka on February 20, 2014

Answer by Christine Frazier-Hollins

Hi Rayhana! Congratulations on both of your achievements you should be very proud.  Making decisions like this is very personal. When I was a senior I faced a similar decision. A professor I trusted suggested that I go work for a few years to be able to really understand and experience what I had just spent the past 4 years studying and to help me narrow my focus if I did return to school later.  I can say that I have not gone back to school and have been very successful with just my Bachelors. Everyone will have a different career path and for me it took going into the workforce to truly discover what I was passionate about and where I wanted to focus my career.  Engineering in the classroom is often very different from engineering in the workplace. You may or may not be performing rigorous calculations – often you are putting together simple solutions to address a need or working to make something perform just a little bit better than it had been. There are lots of things to learn from books; however, I have found that hands on experience and interaction with end users to be invaluable.  Management Training programs are an excellent way to get to know a company and gain exposure to many types of positions in a safe and structured environment – companies are investing in you to become their leaders of tomorrow.  If you choose the work route you will also have the potential advantage of your employer picking up some or all of your costs to get your masters. In terms of taking a break and ease of jumping back all I can say is: If you are determined, you will succeed.  Will it be different? Yes. Will it be more stressful? Probably. Will you succeed? Absolutely, if you are determined.  As you make your decision consult others (who have your best interest at heart), weigh the advice you’ve been given and trust your gut. Don’t be fearful and take comfort in knowing there is no wrong choice here. You can and will be successful whichever avenue you choose at this fork in the road.