For those new STEM graduates out there, your time in college won’t prepare you for all the little things about post-college life. This article aims to help you fill in the gaps!
First things first, you should have a plan or two prepared for after graduation. You will be surprised by just how versatile your degree can be and practical experience is priceless early on in your career. If you can, get out and find an internship, volunteer in a lab, or even better secure a part-time job in your field. Without it, your resume is going to look fairly lackluster and it may take some time to get to that second interview. A few suggestions on how to score a good job post-graduation, ask around the lab, go to your school’s career center, and do your research online regarding what your resume should look like and what to expect in interviews in the field you are hoping to get a job in.
To some, the decision to continue your education may sound unappealing. However, a graduate degree is a great way to make your resume more competitive in the job market. Pure and simple. A master’s degree will qualify you for higher positions and is considered equivalent to one year of experience. A Ph.D. will get you to the highest positions in the field and can be considered several years of work experience. Be careful though, do your research before applying to grad school. A master’s degree can cost the same or more than a bachelor’s per year, and there are far fewer grants and scholarships available to you. FAFSA aid in the form of loans are still available, but the extra debt can be hard in the long run. A Ph.D. will usually have a stipend and covered tuition, but the stipend itself is very small. There is another problem with a Ph.D. as well, Ph.D. students often give up evenings, nights, weekends, and even holidays to keep up with deadlines and graduate in a reasonable amount of time. This doesn’t just last a few years either. In Biochemistry, it is rare to see a Ph.D. student graduate in less than 4 years, with a few students taking almost 10 years to complete their program. A Ph.D. graduate may also find the job market to be less than inviting after graduation as well, with many forced to take Post-Docs instead of other jobs.
The existing stereotype is that academia doesn’t pay much, but you are much more involved in the projects. An industry job will give a good salary, but your work is very limited. If you decide early on that you want to go into the industry, it is very important to put in the time to research what fields you can work in and which of them interest you. In the industry it can be easy to lose focus, so find a field that you know you will love. Once you’ve found that field, then it is time to apply. In academia, there isn’t much room to negotiate, but the industry is a different matter. When you get an interview, you are going to want to focus on a few important things. First off, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It can be intimidating, but an interview should be considered a conversation and not an interrogation. Look for things like how you and your future coworkers get along, what kind of work you will be doing, and any opportunities for advancement within the company. Push for better offers if you can. You may not know how much you are worth this early on, and it is easy for companies to take advantage of new grads and lowball initial offers. Once you have done your due diligence, and have an offer and a position you are happy with, all that’s left is to sign. This won’t be the last time you will be in the market, but the first round is over and it’s time to relax.