You have climbed the mountain, done the work, and finished. You are a graduate, and on paper, you have a whole world of opportunities opening up to you. Earning the grades you want is the first step toward long-term career success.
Sadly, though, this happiness is often short lived when you are unsure what to do next — and for many graduates, that can lead to considerable worry. What if you sign up for something you do not enjoy in the long run? The good news is that graduates at a crossroads do not have to make that fabled ‘final decision’ right now. Rather, it is a chance to get out and explore what you may want to do, and where you would like to develop your skills.
The most vital thing to note is if you do want to further your education, then no matter what kind of graduate you are, you can. If you would like to go into on-the-job training, there are ample opportunities — in internships, for example. Simply keep in mind that, while it has been hard work so far, you will still need to put time and effort in to reach your full potential.
The old saying is true — we never stop learning. Therefore, now is the best time to investigate how you can broaden and specialize your skills even further. Thankfully, we live in a day and age where opportunities are popping up thick and fast.
Head to college
The classic route for a high school graduate is college — and the best news is that colleges are more versatile than ever when it comes to subjects, disciplines and modules. You do not even have to sign up at the most prestigious colleges or universities to really get your teeth into the subject matter that drives you.
If you have a few different areas of interest, it may be wise to try majoring and minoring in various subjects. For example, you can take extra classes in certain subjects and take advantage of trial periods at the beginning of the year. You will have the opportunity to test a few classes before truly committing to them. There is no need to worry about committing to a lifelong plan at this point. What is important right now is that you dive deeply into a subject or field that fascinates you.
Popular college majors that might appeal to you include nursing, business management and economics. In the modern age, transferable skills in care, management and finance are all highly valued. These areas will not only bring forward lucrative earning opportunities but may also support your everyday life for years to come.
You can look at double majors if you are invested in multiple subjects you want to explore equally. This is a potentially challenging option as it means intensive study — but if you are passionate about a given area or topic, you will find it rewarding to put time and effort into it.
Choosing the right college may also be tricky for graduates, and then there is the dreaded period of waiting for acceptance. As it happens, you do not have to study at one of the ‘big boys’ unless they have courses relevant to your interests. You do not even have to study in the US unless it is where you are finding appropriate opportunities.
Some students choose to study abroad, close to home, across the country, or even from their own bedrooms. You may be thinking that going into further education means having to make harsh decisions between work, home, and school, but that is no longer the case. Consider taking an online course, or even multiple if you can manage it — more on that further down.
Of course, being a graduate does not always mean you have just finished high school. What is out there for college graduates?
Consider graduate school
Graduate school is more than just the ‘next step’ for graduates — it is a fantastic route into the world of professional work, as your experiences here can help you to develop a diverse network of contacts, all the while learning how to conduct yourself in a specific field once you graduate.
Graduate school tends to go a little deeper than other routes when it comes to study. For example, you may wish to get deeply into a specific science and even write your own research papers — you will have the opportunity to do so here and get feedback from industry professionals. It is a viable launch pad for millions of graduates.
The experience at grad school takes you into the world of networking beyond self-study, too — meaning you will learn how to build upon opportunities and reach out to the right people. As it happens, studying and building knowledge is just one step on the route to long-term career success!
Study for a master’s degree
Nowadays, bachelor’s degrees will only take you so far. For certain roles, these options prove to be more than enough to get you to entry level — but providing proof that you have even higher education will always serve you. A master’s degree will unlock more responsibility, more specialist opportunities, and the potential for you to earn more.
Taking the time to study for a master’s degree will look great on your resume. It shows your prospects that you are serious about the field you are getting into — and that you have a genuine aptitude for the specialism.
Certain industries and professional roles require master’s degrees as standard. These roles have high earning potential and tend to allow you to advance more efficiently. The years you put into a master’s degree are always likely to be rewarded providing you seek out the right employers.
Studying a master’s degree in engineering management, for example, will provide you with wide-ranging skills to oversee complex engineering tasks and manage people in large teams. These are skills that organizations are looking for — and engineers will always be required in modern society. This, naturally, is just an example of the specialisms you can expect at master’s level. It is worth exploring online and offline courses to see what may interest you.
Some master’s degrees also expect you to go beyond the classroom. Similarly, to attend grad school, you will learn how to apply yourself to ‘the real world’ outside of quiet study. Master’s degrees will allow you to apply your knowledge in a physical setting and will help you make long-lasting connections.
Study for a doctorate
The next level up from becoming a master is to become a doctor or a PhD — where you will establish yourself as an expert in your field. Doctorates can take years to complete, however, at the end of your course, you will be recognized as a leading authority in your field.
You do not have to study human or animal medicine to become a doctor, either. Many people study for doctorates in art, music, fashion, history, engineering, computer science, and more. There is a vast array of opportunities for talented, hard-working students — but this level of study will require serious dedication.
This type of study will typically require you to create and submit your own unique research for publication — a route that can lead you towards intensive research regimes for years to come. Many people who study for doctorates may also choose to teach students at college or specialist organizations further down the line, too. Expertise of this nature is — of course — fairly rewarded in terms of exceptional pay scales.
Become a research assistant
If research and publishing appeal to you but the idea of taking on a full doctorate is a little beyond you right now, you may wish to become a research assistant instead.
Colleges and specialist bodies across the country hire recent graduates to assist their professors in research. Again, this role is not restricted to medicine or science. You can assist doctors and professors in literature research, archival work, and even sociological studies.
Suppose research interests you and you are open to a variety of different fields and disciplines. In that case, it may be worth contacting schools or colleges that you have studied at about positions where you can assist. You may even be able to reach out to specific professors outright to learn more about opportunities.
Signing up a research assistant is a great way of getting firsthand experience with a professional. During your research time, you will learn more about your field and get to see what being a college professor and full-time researcher entails.
Whether or not you are interested in becoming a professor yourself, this is an ideal option for students who wish to extend education but do not wish to continue ‘traditional’ study. Essentially, research assistance allows you to not only attain knowledge but to apply it while you learn.
Being a research assistant can mean long hours and intense work — but it is hugely rewarding for students who intend to make their mark on their chosen industry or specialism.
Enroll in internships
Internships may be unpaid (to some degree), but when you are learning the ropes in a competitive industry, work experience is a competitive asset you may wish to consider.
As a valued intern, you will be required to help and assist in various areas of a given business. This way, you will get to see different positions and learn more about how the industry works from within. It is a wonderful way to gain insight and, perhaps, help you decide what you would like to do long term.
Some courses, such as master’s degrees, require you to take up internships as part of specific modules. To gain full credit, for example, you may need to produce a full diary of your experience during your internship and have your colleagues and superiors complete forms for your school based on your presence and performance.
If you plan on furthering your education, having internships in your portfolio can make a huge difference.
If you are enrolled on a competitive course, remember that multiple people will be trying to get the same internship as you, and in this case, it is often first come, first served.
Thus, it would probably be wise to inquire about your internship even before your course has begun to ensure that you get a place — getting your foot in the door cannot hurt!
Why not go online?
It is entirely possible to enroll in and complete professionally recognized courses online — it is no longer seen as inferior to have studied remotely rather than in-person. In the post-COVID world, this is only likely to continue being the case.
Many of us must work long hours outside of our courses to fund them, our loved ones, and ourselves. Therefore, finding the time to make it to our classes on strict schedules and/or to attend internships on the side can become near impossible. Thankfully, online courses can allow you to be more flexible.
Not all colleges will offer remote study, but it is a route to consider if your current routine and timetable are restrictive. Moreover, you can earn while you learn — and go away with master’s degrees and more besides.
As you can clearly see, there are plenty of options out there for talented new graduates — just because you have graduated from high school or college does not mean that you now have to focus solely on work. In fact, you can keep learning for as long as you want to. Whether that is science, sociology, statistics programs or otherwise is entirely up to you.
Always remember to find a path that suits you and your current needs — there is never any need for you to worry about cementing yourself into one specific industry or career right away. Look into multiple routes and colleges and really search for what interests you.