Go back for more school or take a *meh* first job?
July 21, 2008 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Recent Graduate: Work towards 2nd Bachelors, Masters, or take a lower paying position I hope will lead to the job I want?

I'm from Texas and and a May grad with a BS in Econ (minors in math and writing) from a known State U. Currently I've been searching for job opportunities in fields Junior Financial Analysis or Market Research Analysis, Data Analytics (or really any kind of analysis that requires lots of math, data mining, and forecasting), but these jobs are very hard to find for my (entry? - I've worked every year since high school, but maybe not in relevant jobs) level in Texas (right now, everyone wants senior/experienced applicants) and I am frustrated by the impossibility to get an interview with my ~2.75 GPA (or for reasons companies refuse to inform me of). I am aware that grades are vital to get into the door of these positions.

I believe I am 2 semesters (30 hours) shy of a BS in Applied Mathematics (Finance track) and I can try to raise my grades above a 3.0, but I have already spent 5 years in school and racked up some debt. Now, I was once an Applied Math major before becoming Econ, but I switched due to pressure from paying for school on my own, dealing with an abusive relationship (that ended after the degree change), and constant insane familial problems/drama (think Arrested Development). I want to say that now those distractions could dissipate (except for paying for school on my own), but any future incidents are probable. Let's just say, I'm eager to pursue/finish the degree, but I'm afraid that I fall back into the depression/fear of not successfully getting the high marks needed to make this elusive degree worth while.

Another option is to start an online MS Finance or MS Math/Stat degree from an accredited (not UPhoenix), but not well known University that would take about 2 years to finish while working/searching for employment. I've been told that Bachelors are more available today, so getting a Masters is becoming more necessary to differentiate yourself from the competition.

I've read on MeFi that people recommend taking the CFA Level 1 to differentiate themselves, but I doubt it would help for the jobs outside of Financial Analysis (Data Analytics and Market Research).

Another factor in my decision: I've been offered a position as a cost analyst at a small firm. It sounds okay, but my responsibilities aren't more than data entry (at least at first) and product updating, the salary isn't as reasonable to live on, and it requires 100 miles of round trip commuting from living with my family (moving out makes the job even less economical). The job is well, a job, I suppose and it offers me the ability to pocket a little bit of money after paying all my debts.

My question is given the current state of our US economy, call it a recession or a fearful voting year with tons of graduates and less amount of entry jobs, would it be best to A) try and finish my math degree, B) enter an MS Finance degree, or C) take a left-field-ish job and try to work my way into my desired job?
posted by sleazy_e to Education (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Would it be an option to ask the small company if you can be a part-time cost analyst 2-3 days a week while working on the MSc the other days? Is there room for advancement at the small company?
posted by hazyjane at 12:26 PM on July 21, 2008

Best answer: A job you're not interested in at a salary you can't live on with a hundred mile commute doesn't exactly sound like a stellar option.
posted by ook at 12:29 PM on July 21, 2008

Response by poster: The advancement is that i would become my own manager. Due to my skills, I'm specialized for this small company. I asked about graduate opportunity and being that this is a small place, they don't really put much emphasis on that kind of training.
posted by sleazy_e at 12:34 PM on July 21, 2008

There's a tendency to not finish education once you start elsewhere. The job doesn't necessarily sound like it will lead anywhere.
posted by xammerboy at 12:54 PM on July 21, 2008

Best answer: I'm with ook, that sounds like a crappy option. Especially with the cost of gas.

All I can tell you is my experience: I did my MS right after finishing my BS. I think it would have been more helpful for me to have gotten more job experience before getting my MS. Now I have a stellar education, but really, employers are looking for work experience that I don't have. In the meantime, I have a ton of debt from student loans.
posted by All.star at 12:54 PM on July 21, 2008

Does "being your own manager," whatever that means, outweigh the drawbacks of the job? Is there some indication you haven't mentioned yet that the job would lead to better things, more responsibility, etc? or is it just a job?

Honestly, it sounds like you're trying to talk yourself into settling for a mediocre option because you're [afraid of? exhausted from? being pressured out of?] putting out the effort towards finding something better. I don't know anything about your field, so can't comment on which -- if any -- other degree you should pursue -- but your description of the cost analyst job makes it sound like, at best, a temporary stopgap. If you're really in a crunch and need a temporary stopgap job, then take it, but don't stop looking for better work in the meantime.

If the fact that you're in a small area is limiting your job opportunities, do you really need to stay in that small area?

If I were you I'd try to stop thinking about the economy, your family drama, your fears of failure, and especially your "any future incidents are probable" thing. All that stuff is outside your control; factoring it into your decisionmaking isn't going to help.
posted by ook at 12:59 PM on July 21, 2008

Advancing to being your own manager = dead end, as far as I can see. And a full-time job and with a long commute mean you'll be too tired when you get home to either further your education or look for something else. So n-thing those who say only take it as a last resort, and, if you can afford to, keep looking.
posted by hazyjane at 1:35 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Get work experience. Then get your Masters.

You want to time this so that you get the maximum financial value for your Masters degree. If you have Masters, but little relevant job experience you'll be slotted into lower paying junior roles. Your classmates will command higher salaries and get better offers. The transition you make when completing your graduate degree is a key opportunity to boost your career. If you waste that opportunity by using it for an entry level job, you won't reap the return on your investment of time or cost.

Get a job in your field - even a crappy part time one. (Though the commute you cited makes me think that, the job offer you have isn't the best for you.) Consider your first job an investment in the same way your degree is an investment.

BTW, are you at all interested in the energy sector? There's a lot of analytical roles and energy trading is an interesting commodity market. Depending where you are in Texas, there are plenty of energy sector opportunities.
posted by 26.2 at 2:03 PM on July 21, 2008

Response by poster: I'm interested in the Energy industry, but I'm having trouble breaking into it. I have contacts through family friends, but it's taking a long while to hear back from anyone.

I just found out today that I'm actually 7 classes from that second bachelors, so the masters is probably not going to be what I need to invest my time into.

I have been thinking of using staffing companies for a part time job to raise some capital and maybe just spend the next year finishing that second degree. Then after graduation, I'll have some relevant experience and two degrees.
posted by sleazy_e at 2:59 PM on July 21, 2008

I don't know much about your field, but in general, advancing to being your own manager is not a great prospect out of undergrad. At this point in your career, you want to be at a place big enough for your to grow, and you actually want a manager, as long as it's someone who can train you and help you develop. I would only recommend a recent grad take a job at a small firm if it's somewhere they'll be a big fish, ie, have a lot of responsibility.

Have you considered interning? Might be easier to get a position that way. You can wait tables a few nights/weekend days a week, and live with your folks for a bit (unless your family is just too draining).
posted by lunasol at 3:25 PM on July 21, 2008

I don't know how it works in the US, but recruiting in the UK, I'd take a Bachelors degree with some work experience over a Masters with no work experience any day. (I'm in IT, with a data analysis focus). Relevant experience is more than relevant experience, it proves that you understand the world of work, which is a very good thing.

So if you can get a job and continue your studies part time, while not jeopardising your grades, then I'd recommend that option. But I'd finish your Bachelors degree if you can - a degree with no experience is worth more than no degree with no experience.

And it's worth pointing out that the grades you get in a degree become less and less important the more work experience you have. Grades are the only differentiator for employers of new graduates, which is why they're so imprortant. As soon as you're no longer a new graduate, work experience counts for so much more, as that's more relevant to employers. (In the UK, in my experience, anyway)
posted by finding.perdita at 5:57 PM on July 21, 2008

The one thing that hit me in your post is that you said in Texas they are looking for senior level positions. Are you looking outside of Texas because there could be some jobs out of Texas that you actually like. I don't know if your family situation prohibits you from going out of state, or if you just do not want to leave, but casting a broader search could help your situation.
posted by amery2008 at 8:55 PM on July 21, 2008

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