Success & Impact

Why Grad School Might Be the Career Changer You’ve Been Waiting For

by Julia Maltz

Two students crossing the road at a crosswalk.
Keys to the Article
  • On April 15, Saint Joseph’s participated in Campus Philly’s Opportunity Fair, a virtual career fair focused on connecting students with companies, graduate schools and professional networking opportunities.
  • The event featured a live broadcast titled “How I Changed My Career by Going Back to School,” featuring three Saint Joseph’s students and alumni.
  • Stacey Thompson ’21, Enrica Pacitto ’19 and Derek MacKinnon ’20 shared their experiences regarding the decision to attend grad school, what helped them succeed academically and how their lives changed after grad school.

The decision to attend graduate school offers countless advantages — from increasing graduates’ skill sets and earning potential, to expanding their professional networks and giving them a leg up on their careers. But making the decision to go back to school after entering the workforce isn’t always easy.

On April 15, Saint Joseph’s University participated in Campus Philly’s Opportunity Fair, a virtual career fair focused on connecting students of all backgrounds with companies, graduate schools and professional networking opportunities. The event included a live broadcast titled “How I Changed My Career by Going Back to School,” featuring three Saint Joseph’s students and alumni sharing how grad school impacted their life.

The broadcast was moderated by Ayannah Kamryn, event host at Campus Philly, and the panelists included:

  • Stacey Thompson ’21, Master of Science, Computer Science
  • Enrica Pacitto ’19, Master of Science, Marketing
  • Derek MacKinnon ’20, Master of Business Administration (MBA)

We listened to their stories and learned how graduate school made a difference in their lives and careers — and how it can enrich the lives of others, too.

What Made You Decide to Apply for Grad School?

During the panel, Thompson described how she chose to pursue not one but two master’s degrees. She stated, “For the first, the decision was just a part of the plan. I have a bachelor's degree in psychology, so a master's degree in applied behavior analysis was a natural path. For the second degree, the decision was more difficult. I was making the choice to switch careers. Financial security was the largest factor in my decision.” Thompson opted to pursue a M.S. in computer science, noting that Saint Joseph’s was one of the few schools that did not require a bachelor’s in computer science for the master’s program, which served as a key factor for her decision.

As an international student from Italy, Pacitto wanted to complement her bachelor’s degree in international affairs with a business program. She wanted to challenge herself and determined that Saint Joseph’s M.S. in marketing, with an international specialization, was a great way to expand her interests while learning about the creative and analytical sides of marketing.

MacKinnon always planned on attending grad school to enhance his skills in the finance industry. He earned his B.S. in finance at Saint Joseph’s and the support he received as an undergraduate student drove home his decision to continue with his MBA through the 4+1 program. “My decision was truly a direct consequence of the connections that I made in my undergraduate program, for which I'm still incredibly grateful.. In fostering the relationships I made, I was able to make a firm determination on what the benefits of attending graduate school at SJU were, and ultimately, this helped me to formulate my decision to get my MBA.”

What Helped You Succeed in Grad School?

Thompson was motivated by her career shift and the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills in a new industry. She identified the small class sizes and support from the computer science department as key factors of her success.

Pacitto found inspiration from applying core skills she learned in her program, such as teamwork, communication and leadership, to her roles as a graduate assistant and working in performance marketing at QVC during her time in the program. She also attended Saint Joseph’s Career Fair each year and formed relationships with professors as mentors.

MacKinnon benefited from taking niche finance courses, making connections with students in team projects, and receiving immense support from faculty and staff in the Haub School of Business and other resource groups on campus, such as the Athlete Center for Enrichment.

What Prepared You for Life After Grad School?

All three panelists discussed the advantages of building connections, utilizing resources offered by the Career Development Center — including resume development, engaging with alumni and using Handshake — and networking to gain real-world experience.

Today, Thompson is preparing to graduate with the Class of 2021 and will head to Plano, Texas, as a software engineer with JPMorgan Chase; Pacitto has launched her own business, CoSign, that finances and supports international student education in the United States; and MacKinnon works  at JPMorgan Chase in the Corporate and Investment Banking Wholesale Lending Services business segment.

The decision to attend grad school undoubtedly shaped their careers. From the panel, attendees learned that no matter one’s background or passions, graduate education is a valuable asset to expand one’s skills and advance one’s career.

With more than 70 graduate degrees and certificate programs, Saint Joseph’s University offers personalized attention, small class sizes and meaningful relationships with professors to help students soar into their future careers. Learn more about the University’s graduate programs or attend an upcoming information session.