For many people, having higher educational attainment can help them create more favorable economic conditions for themselves. Whether they are looking for employment in their dream companies or industries or they are wanting to build credentials for when they launch their business, they are looking at education for support.
This is one of the reasons why many pursue graduate studies. However, graduate students may be having difficulties finding the right path for them, especially with lot of opportunities out there. This article will talk about the best choice between employment or business for graduate students.
Evaluating the Employment Option
The Employment Situation Summary released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022) shows that the unemployment rate ended at a better note in December 2021 at 3.9% compared to the 4.2% in November of the same year. This means that out of the 162,294 civilian labor force, 155,975 are employed, while 6,319 are unemployed by the end of 2021.
This is a good thing for the economy, as it can be an indication that the country is generating more jobs, helping more people gain purchasing power for their needs, and generally showing an improving economic sector, after the slowdown that occurred over the past years, especially with the public health crisis.
Being employed under a reasonable employer can allow people to enjoy a compensation package composed of employment benefits on top of their just wages. This includes health coverage, paid time off, and retirement fund matching, just to name a few.
However, it is important to note that the employees are finding it challenging to find opportunities that offer a living wage, especially as the federal minimum wage is only $7.25 per hour, which is barely a living wage (Department of Labor, n.d.). Different states have a different set minimum wage. It is worthwhile to mention that many offer higher hourly rates than the minimum.
As an example, take a look at the average wages in New York County, New York. According to the Living Wage Calculator by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (n.d.), the minimum wage should be $21.77, but the minimum wage in the county is $11.8. Some employers even pay poverty wages at $6.13.
Another thing to consider is the fact that many employees in the United States are dissatisfied with their pay, employment, or lack of access to education. According to Venture Beat (2021), a survey by software company Jenzabar showed that 47% of the respondents say they are underpaid and underemployed.
This segment is also looking for affordable education and training options to improve their skills and find new ones, which can help them land other opportunities. Around 30% of the respondents feel that their college diplomas failed to prepare them for their current career or the path they want to follow.
Evaluating the Business Option
When it comes to the business option, it is important to consider that this is mostly composed of small-business owners and self-employed individuals. Given this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that new jobs are bound to open for small businesses and self-employed individuals from 2016 to 2026.
The occupational group that is forecast to see the biggest increase is personal care and service with more than 125,000 jobs, followed by building and grounds cleaning and maintenance with more than 75,000. Construction and extraction are next, with management following suit.
The bottom three groups are transportation and material moving, business and financial operations, and lastly, arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media with less than 50,000 new jobs.
Overall, launching a business, especially a startup, can be a good move for people with entrepreneurial mindsets. Once their company gets picked up by an investor, they are likely to be on their way to success.
Given this generally good outlook when it comes to employment opportunities, it is vital to remember that entering a business or jumping into self-employment poses risks. Launching a business, for one, requires a lot of research and projection. Moreover, there are lots of external factors that could affect the success of a business, or lack of it.
Take the pandemic for example. While many employees lost their jobs during this public health event, many small businesses were forced to close down as an effect of the issue and the measures taken to mitigate the crisis.
Which is Better for Graduate Students?
Graduate students need to choose carefully, when it comes to their future careers. Those who chose to specialize in their respective areas of expertise are likely to envision themselves joining organizations where their knowledge, experience, and interests matter. A person finishing a master’s degree in robotics, for example, can be employed in a research facility or a big tech company.
However, those who are more geared toward entrepreneurship are likely to look for opportunities where they can combine their business acumen with their field of expertise. Startups are a good place to start, as these small but scalable businesses tend to be disruptors in their chosen industries.
For some, going the self-employment route is a better choice as it capitalizes on their own skills, potentials, and opportunities in earning. This is a viable option for professionals like lawyers, accountants and auditors, psychologists, dentists, and veterinarians, according to BLS (2018).
More creative professionals tend to gravitate toward self-employment, as well. The gig economy has opened up a lot of opportunities for this.
The key to choosing the right path is understanding that graduate students have respective preferences, which they aim to pursue using their expertise in the field. For individuals with business acumen, pursuing entrepreneurship is the best way to go, while others may be aiming to find employment in prestigious companies, or sectors where their interests align such as education and the academe.
The Bottom Line
Graduate students are working toward earning a degree that can help them pursue their dreams. With these options in mind, they can weigh their choices and follow the career path they envision for themselves.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022). Employment situation summary. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
- Department of Labor. (n.d.). Minimum wage. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/wages/minimumwage
- Living Wage Calculator. (n.d.). Living wage calculation for New York County, New York. Retrieved from https://venturebeat.com/2021/10/20/report-47-of-u-s-employees-say-they-are-underpaid/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2018). Small business options: Occupational outlook for self-employed workers. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/article/self-employment.htm