Master’s or a year abroad. How to hack your career progression

There seems an ever growing predicament when graduates finish their bachelor degrees. In a world where more and more people attend University and bachelor degrees are becoming less and less valuable it is becoming ever more popular to take the easy option of grabbing a higher level master’s degree. Tempting as this seems to stay in education one or two more years there may be a better way to hack your career progression than spend even more time and money in education.

Master’s degrees

Master’s degrees are expensive with mixed evidence suggesting to their success. According to the economic study in 2015 by Georgetown University master’s graduates earn on average $17,000 more in salary per year compared to their bachelor degree holding counterparts. However as time progresses and more graduates have adopted the master’s route to career ascension the value of master’s degrees are on the decline with many employers actually stating a masters degree makes candidates less desirable, citing higher pay demand worries and overqualification as reasons for their lower appeal. Theres also the tragic tale reported in Forbes of the overqualified law graduate who racked up over $300,000 in student debt only to land a $20,000 salary. Not an ideal return.

Balance academia with work experience

“There is rarely a reason to go to grad school immediately after earning a bachelor’s degree”

Andrew Roberts, associate professor at Northwestern University argues that there is no substitution for full time work experience. Not only does working full time give you an uncomparable taste and feel for the world of work, but the personal development you gain from it is likely to influence your later decision on what you really want to do with you life and where you wish to channel your energies.  It could be that the career you you thought you wanted isn’t all it is planned out and by taking time to look back and reassess the situation you can then redirect your studies to prepare you for an alternative path.

TEFLing in China

To be clear, TEFL stands for Teach English as a Foreign language. You can TEFL in many different countries but for focus this article will look at TEFLing in China, the largest market in the world for TEFL teachers and a rapidly developing economy and world superpower. This is not the only thing you can do with a year at work but there are currently numerous lucrative opportunities in TEFL for native English speakers. Furthermore, countries such as China with booming economies are often only accessible to new graduates by using TEFL as a gateway scheme. English tuition is the one resource the Chinese are desperate for and by teaching the language in return you get an unparalleled opportunity to live, work and learn the native language of China. Not to mention get paid handsomely in the process.

TEFL, the misconception

The huge misconception with TEFL placements are that you need to have a desire to teach as a career in order for TEFL to be worth your time. On the contrary taking TEFL short term to China gives you the opportunity to learn the language and build your contacts. Once you have experience in China you can then transfer to working in China in a different sector much more easily. You can also return home and use the business contacts that you have made over in China to build a business or career at home.

When not to TEFL

TEFL is a great short term tool, but like with many things, if overused and done for too long the path can limit your career options back home. In extreme cases, it can make you virtually unemployable in anything but unskilled labour. This is because completely lacking work experience in your home country can worry employers. Where one year or two TEFLing looks great and shows depth to your career and personal development, getting stuck there can suggest to businesses that you are no longer interested in their sector.

Best of both worlds

So TEFLing in China should be done straight out of university following your undergraduate degree, this immediately gives you work experience abroad along with the time to confirm your specialisation into your chosen masters subject before investing a rather huge amount of time and money. Once you return should you still wish to study a master’s your CV will have a strong balance of work experience and advanced education that employers want.

So, like with many things in life, timing seems crucial, by quickly getting work experience then returning to build on this with advanced study you can hack your career and be a dream candidate, however be warned, be seduced by the easy life  of tefl teaching and get complacent with stopping there long term and face dwindled employment opportunities should you return home.

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