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When is the right time to start graduate school?

I can’t tell you how often students ask me, “Should I start graduate school right after undergrad or should I wait until I have work experience?”

When college juniors and seniors know that graduate school is a future aspiration, they begin to seek advice from family, friends and academic advisors alike on the best possible solution to this popular question. More often than not, they hear conflicting responses across the board.

Let’s be honest. Graduate school and career experience are both invaluable. Graduate school takes undergraduate learnings and unveils a more in-depth, higher level of understanding in a given field. Graduate level work excites the mind and offers students the opportunity to discover what skills they would like to develop. Career experience, on the other hand, is irreplaceable in its own way – as you can’t quite teach someone what work experience can. Dealing with coworkers, reporting to a boss and solving everyday problems are skills that will always be important and in demand.

That said, it’s not difficult to understand why every person you speak with has differing opinions on this subject. However, there is a fool-proof solution, if you already know that graduate school is on your to-do list.

Do both at the same time. 

Who says you can’t start your career and continue your education at the same time?

Sure, beginning to work your first full-time job out of college will most likely be stressful and full of new people, new problems and new ways of thinking. Nonetheless, the skills that you will develop in graduate school nicely supplement work tasks and responsibilities. You don’t have to start both the same day. But I encourage you, don’t eliminate the possibility of starting graduate school because you plan to start a new job after graduation. Having that “school mode” advantage will help you start off strong, without missing a beat. Within about two years, you could potentially have a graduate degree and a few years of work experience. That’s a powerful combination.

Here’s how you can do it:

1. The Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) and Data Marketing Communications (DMC) master’s programs are fully online. The vast majority of our students work full time, too. IMC is a bit more flexible than DMC, but with the online component, you can make time for different professional and personal obligations without having to worry about being in the classroom.

2. You can complete the IMC degree part-time if you prefer and still complete the degree in about 2 to 2.5 years. At that point, you could easily be looking to advance or change positions, and a graduate degree can increase your marketability.

3. You can network with IMC/DMC faculty, alumni and fellow students to build your professional network in both your work life and academic life simultaneously. Our faculty are seasoned marketing professionals. Why not build a professional network in both your workplace and in your academic classroom? Our programs are reputable and well-known across the country.

Ultimately, the decision to pursue graduate school right after undergraduate school is up to you. Everyone has a different situation and you know yourself best. Maybe waiting a few years is a better avenue for some students. I implore you, though, to keep an open mind. The nature of the workforce is changing. Earning a graduate degree, coupled with years of relevant experience, is a demanding lead on those who simply do one or the other. 

Emily Hayes

For questions about the IMC or DMC programs at WVU, please contact Emily Hayes, the enrollment specialist, at or 304-293-6278.