By no means am I declaring myself an expert on education, or even any specific type of education, but after reading this article in Businessweek recently, I’m continuing to wonder: is there a better way to pursue post graduate education?
The “traditional” model of many post graduate educational programs is to quit your day job (or just go straight from undergrad) right into a full time post graduate program, and be a “full-time” student for 2+ years (be it an MBA program, law program, or MD or PhD program). Many seek the idea of real world employment AFTER their post grad ed is completed. However, in the current economic climate, and for that matter any economic climate moving forward, I think this isn’t the best approach. Here’s why.
1. Many undergrads at graduation are already drowning in a sea of debt in a lot of cases. To continue to pile it on while not working in a full time job just perpetuates that notion.
2. In all of my post graduate educational experiences, I really thought that working full time gave me an education (in the school of hard knocks) along with a part time PGE program in the school of wherever simultaneously ENHANCED my educational experiences. Example: in my MBA program, I worked on projects in the pharmaceutical industry (my day job at the time). In my PharmD program, I actually had the chance to blend a real day job need (a med info project) along with a med info rotation. My employer won on that one (more work responsibility at the same level of benefits) and so did I by doing a project that actually worked and was valuable in the real world. Even in my law training, I learned about vague terms on a case involving book publishing WHILE simultaneously in the real world I was considering a book publishing contract. For me, I have to see what my education looks like in the real world in terms of application; otherwise, it is just a nebulous, hypothetical ball of chaos in my head.
3. Some may argue studying something ‘full time’ might be a ‘better’ education. I think that’s a line of BS. In all classes I teach, I make it a core responsibility for myself as the coordinator of a class to always bring in people in the real world who are doing the work. The best ideas don’t necessarily come from academics – they come from people who HAVE to solve the problems out in the REAL world.
While some full time programs continue to force the mystique of full time education, the smarter universities involved in post grad ed already know that simultaneous training in their institution part time on top of a full time school of hard knocks education is the way to go. By all means, if you want to pursue your dream and the only way to do it is full time, knock yourself out. However, if you have the option, consider enriching your education (and decreasing your debt load) by working and educating yourself at the same time. Your experience and your bank account will be better off in the end.