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Should I go to grad school?

Hi! I'm a sophomore Public Health major. I'm interested in epidemiology and biostatistics therefore, in the near future, I would like a career in that field. Would that job market require me to get a Master's degree? Or can I get a job without one? Is a Master's degree worth it? #graduate-school

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Lisa’s Answer

Hi Jenna!

Great question and, ultimately, only you can decide if graduate studies are worth it or not. It’s a big investment of time and money and you should do your research to be certain.

As far as entry/mid-level roles in epidemiology and stats, you can definitely find jobs without a graduate degree in the Public Health sector and other fields. A bachelor’s is more than okay. To find out more, please work with your career counselor and faculty at your current college or university to understand the different pathways, types of jobs, and options in your field.

However, there are certain positions (mid- senior levels) that will require a master’s degree or higher AND work experience for such roles. Please speak with your career counselor and Public Health faculty about those positions. You may decide to get the masters now and build experience or vis-à-vis.

Finally, if you are still uncertain about pursuing grad work right now because you don’t need it for entry-mid level positions (for example), then finding a job at an organization that will also pay you to pursue your masters is a good idea too.

For example, I had my entire master’s degree paid for by my organization. However, be sure to vet these organizations carefully to ensure that they will support you when you are ready to pursue this goal.

I hope this helps!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Lisa! Jenna Villa, Admin
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Veronica’s Answer

There are so many job opportunities at this time, that I would look for a job in your field of interest. Work for a couple of years to find out what your true interest is in the public health field. Don’t accumulate educational debt. Some companies will help pay for your Master degree.
A Master degree may open up some doors, but job experience can do it as well and give you a better idea of your true interest will be.
Thank you comment icon I appreciate this, thank you for the advice. Jenna Villa, Admin
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Adam’s Answer

Great question to ask! I would definitely consider gaining real world application through a job in the public health sector. Unless you have the financial means, generous fellowship, or want to become a subject expert in a specific lane of that field I would pursue an entry level position to gain experience for a few years. In today's climate, real experience outweighs graduate academia, unless your pursuing becoming a doctor, lawyer or professor where it's a bit mandatory for graduate school. The sooner you get into the workforce and start curating your expertise through experience the more ahead you'll get vs going straight into a graduate program. Your undergraduate degree will help anchor you, open the door for job opportunities, and be a great tool to harness when dealing with real time problem solving and prevention.

The medical/health field is definitely a booming realm right now for healthcare professionals in all facets. So gaining that experience through working is definitely vital for career advancement as you'll be able to speak to actual experience obtained. Many companies/organizations offer tuition reimbursement packages which you could use to obtain your graduate degree if you so choose down the road. Or you may find a different channel within the Public Health field that will pivot your career in a new direction.

A suggestion I would give is to look through public health related job titles and search around in Linkedin for people who are in those roles currently and see what their backgrounds are that led to the role you desire or interested in by viewing their profiles and job/education history. That'll provide a better field specific assessment of what credentials are required for the role or career you want.

See the below link of emerging public health affiliated roles as of 2021 to sift through that may peak your interest and help search around on job board sites and Linkedin.

Some questions to consider for pursuing a graduate degree or not are:
1) Is it worth your time? (Earning a masters degree generally takes 2-3 years and requires a lot of time management allocation)
2) Is it worth the money? (Generally graduate programs can be 10s of thousands of dollars per school year)
3) Will it help advance my career? (Talk with professionals in the field to gauge their thoughts on if a masters or higher is needed)
4) Can you afford graduate school? (Their aren't many scholarships for grad school but there are assitantships, fellowships, and research positions to help dilute the financial burden or eliminate it all together)
5) Do I need to go attend grad school? (Have a concrete goal in mind to justify your pursuance. Racking up debt or wasting time shouldn't be an option when you could be utilizing that time in a job function acquiring experience and mitigating loan repayments)

Thank you comment icon Thanks for your encouragement! Jenna Villa, Admin