Graduating with a bachelor’s degree is often met with conflicting feelings of accomplishment and fear. The accomplishment stems from knowing that you as a student have achieved your designated goals. However, reality may begin to surface as students begin to contemplate their next steps in life. Deciding whether to continue with education by way of graduate school or obtain employment can be the toughest and most crucial decision an individual will make at this early junction.
Many questions may arise during this transitional phase, most of which will likely stem from the financial obligations related to real-world expectations (i.e., rent, loans, etc.). If you find yourself grappling with what decision to make, ask yourself these questions: What are my goals in life? What professional career will allow me to achieve these goals? Will a graduate degree help me break into the field?
Keep in mind that this is an individual journey and everyone has a unique path to follow. Many of your peers may decide that continuing on to a graduate program is more beneficial to reaching their goals; however, that doesn’t mean you must follow in their footsteps. Life itself is unexpected. No two paths will be the same and neither will be straight, and it will not be easy. It’s important not to place limitations on what you want to achieve or to succumb to pressure from family members and friends.
As graduation nears, be mindful of your chosen career path. Does your career require you to obtain a graduate degree, or will real-world experiences suffice? For instance, if you’re interested in pursuing a career in psychology, it would be beneficial to gain a better understanding of the qualifications needed to reach this goal, as they may vary according to the psychological discipline (such as clinical, counseling, forensic, child, health, or neuro). Determining the type of psychology you want to practice will impact the direction you choose to take regarding educational advancement.
An undergraduate degree in psychology can lead to employment as a social worker, case manager, human resource professional, certified addiction professional, behavioral technician, child life specialist, or associate behavior analyst. A master’s degree in counseling psychology is needed if you’re interested in providing therapeutic services, since you must complete an accredited counseling program before you can apply to obtain a license in mental health counseling. If you are interested in providing clinical assessment and evaluation, you will be required to obtain a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.
Graduate school is quite a different experience than an undergraduate program. Students are more autonomous, which, for many, can leave them feeling lost or without guidance. The important thing to remember is there are various resources that greatly improve the graduate school experience, including tutoring, mentoring programs, and academic advisors.