What to do after Peace Corps
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5 Reasons in Favor of Grad School After Peace Corps
and 4 Reasons Against it
The Golden Rules of Grad School After Peace Corpsare the heavy hitters in the battle of school vs. work. If you have both of them in the bag, the decision is pretty easy.
But life is messy, and sometimes the two Golden Rules end up in opposite corners of the ring. Or some twist in the plot that makes things not so clear cut.
Here we share some other factors to keep in mind when deciding on school. These are frequently overlooked, but always worth a second glance.
in favor of school…
The job market is terrible.
To be clear, “terrible” doesn’t mean that you personally can’t find a job you want. It means that experts in the field agree that prospects are temporarily poor for professionals in your field. If you want to work for the Environmental Protection Agency or the US Agency for International Development, this might be you.
Your degree isn’t super useful on it’s own.
Some bachelor degrees are foundational. For example, a B.A. in History doesn’t qualify you for a lot of jobs. Add a M.A, and you can teach at a community college. Get a Ph.D, and you can teach at a university. Go for a J.D., and you’re a lawyer.
Your field of work is tiny.
If your field is steadily shrinking, the pay is terrible for everyone, or employment prospects are long-term poor, then it’s time to shift gears. A grad degree is a great way to do that without starting over completely.
It’s been almost 6 months since your last skill-development position.
A skill-development position is work that helps you grow your marketable skill set. Peace Corps definitely falls into this category. If you’ve been looking for work but haven’t found anything beyond entry-level customer service-type gigs, then it’s time to move on. Grad school is an expensive fallback, but less expensive than stagnation.
You need a supportive cohort.
Maybe you don’t have a home to go to, you really need a morale boost, or you reel at the thoughts of being away from your fellow PCVs. Much like Peace Corps, grad school surrounds you with a community of like-minded people doing exactly what you’re doing. In contrast, meaningful connections in the workplace are more challenging or even discouraged.
in favor of work…
You want a PhD.
You have Peace Corps non-competitive eligibility for 1 year, or up to 2 if you go back to school. Legitimate PhD programs take longer than 2 years. So if you’re aiming for a PhD, consider taking advantage of that non-competitive eligibility to load up on cash and experience before you hit the books.
It’s an online or part-time degree.
Degrees that allow you to continue working full time are much more likely to be funded by your employer. When you get that glowing one-year review, come prepared with rationale for how the program will make you an even better worker, and offer to take it in lieu of a raise.
You’re ready to earn money.
Student loans are hanging over your head, or you’re just overdue for a vacation that doesn’t involve a hostel. Bring home them dollars for a couple years. In the meantime, you’ll definitely learn more about what you want to do in grad school, and you might find a grant or employer to pay for it.
You still feel like a kid.
Grad school is like Peace Corps–you live your job. If you went straight from high school to college to Peace Corps, you might be pretty sick of structured environments and always feeling like a newbie. Dying to finally knowing what’s going on around you, be proficient at something, get paid for it, and clock out in time to raise a ruckus at happy hour? Then hold off on grad school.