Graduate School or Possible Promotion?
January 19, 2012 6:52 PM   Subscribe

Graduate school versus possible promotion?

So I've just finished turning in applications for a master's degree in my chosen (after five years out of school) field. I think I'll be a pretty good candidate - I've had some interesting experiences, have a solid academic background at a good school, and have generally gotten a good base of work experience.

My conundrum is this: one of my coworkers unexpectedly got a new job and left just in the past 3-4 weeks or so. Initially, I really wanted her job and the thought of grad school flew right out of my head. Although I generally like the day to day of my current job, I am at a point where I want to move up, as I am more or less at the bottom of the totem pole right now (this current position has been kind of my first "real" job out of college, after having a few internships and volunteering abroad). So the thought of getting her job, which is a rung up on said totem pole, was very appealing.

However, when I discussed the possibility with our supervisor, I found out that they are changing the responsibilities for this job in a way that makes me markedly less enthusiastic about it. Not that it will be less responsible, just that the responsibilities it will include are less interesting to me than my current job. I didn't really get a good read one way or the other from my supervisor when I talked with her about my chances for the position (more "we'll be happy to consider your application") though she's kind of a stickler for doing things by the book and I don't know that she would let on if she thought I was a good prospect one way or the other anyway.

So I guess my question - apply for the position or not? The timing is crap because if I applied and got offered the position, I would probably still not know at that point if I had been accepted to grad school or not and the possible financial aid. If someone told me right now, "you can have this position or you can have one of the grad programs you applied to with enough financial aid for you not to worry about things that much," I would go with grad school no questions asked.

Another complication is that I know that another colleague will be leaving a couple of months after the grad school decisions are communicated to me - and the job of this colleague would be substantially more interesting to me than the job that is currently up for grabs. I'm also not quite sure if I'd be qualified for this job, but I'm willing to bet that I would be. So it seems to make sense to me to wait for the graduate school decisions and then if they don't work out apply for the second coworker's job and start looking around for a new job generally speaking. But of course this other position is open now and I am really really tired of being in an entry level-ish position. What should I do?
posted by Rinoia to Work & Money (6 answers total)
What kind of master's program are you applying for? My read on this situation would be really different if you were applying to be an English major vice something like computer science.

In general, financial aid is often reserved for doctoral students and so you may have issues with obtaining an assistantship or something if you're applying to a master's program, but that trend is really school- and discipline- specific. Can you work the job and go to school part time? Does your employer support employee education?
posted by _cave at 7:05 PM on January 19, 2012

Yeah, that's the thing about financial aid, I think it could be elusive - I'm interested in public policy/international affairs and it's not likely to be abundant in terms of financial aid. I am applying to one local school that I could go to part time if I got the promotion, though my employer wouldn't support my school in any particular way, they don't do that.

The complication is that the schools that I really want to go to are actually abroad. One of my big life (well, actually would be nice to accomplish before 30) ambitions is to become completely fluent in another language, and these programs would offer that opportunity. I kind of only applied to the domestic grad programs because I figured what the hey, might as well. The domestic programs do offer study abroad options, but it's not the same as two years abroad to really get that fluency that I'm going for. Also, one of the positive things about the international programs is that they are less expensive than the domestic ones, one of them significantly less so.
posted by Rinoia at 7:18 PM on January 19, 2012

Why are you thinking about grad school--was it just an idea for general change, or do you have a specific goal in mind? Agreeing with _cave re: funding; anecdatum: as a current masters student at a top-tier school, NO ONE I know got grants--they only had three for the entire school of ~650 masters students, but the EdD students aren't paying a dime (we basically fund them). If you are looking at sciences programs, then this is probably very different.

oh the humanities!
posted by smirkette at 7:20 PM on January 19, 2012

Apply for the position. If grad school works out and you have to quit in 3 months, c'est la vie. If they give you the job and something drastic happens in the company in 3 months and they eliminate the position to cut costs, the company isn't going to feel guilty. You shouldn't either.
posted by COD at 7:48 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you know whether you could defer your enrollment at any of these schools, if accepted? How strong a reference do you need from your employer? What are your prospects of finding another job if somehow neither grad school nor either of these positions works out? I would look at how secure you are in terms of being employed at all, and then work through the possible scenarios from there.

You apply for position:
Position is crappy --> you don't like it --> you apply for other one when it becomes available --> it is great and you are happy
Position is crappy --> you don't like it --> you quit and go to grad school (don't get a great reference from this employer)
Position is great --> you like it
You aren't offered the position --> go to grad school
You aren't offered the position --> wait and apply to other position --> don't get it --> have to find a new job
You aren't offered the position --> wait and apply to other position --> do get it --> it is great and you are happy
and so on

Don't know if that helps you, but it helped me today as I went through this very process. :)
posted by ramenopres at 8:20 PM on January 19, 2012

Random happy update on this: applied for job and didn't get it, but I got a full ride scholarship to grad school instead :)
posted by Rinoia at 8:13 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

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