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Graduating Bulldogs Look to the Future

Newly minted University of Georgia alumni weigh in on their choices in a post-university world

The University of Georgia's best and brightest traveled to Sanford Stadium on Friday night for their Commencement ceremony to celebrate their collective graduation.

The event recognized approximately 4000 undergraduate students, who must now take their first, furtive steps into the world and answer a simple question:   What will they do now that they've graduated?

For many science majors, the answer is "more school."

"You can't really do anything with a bachelor's degree in science," said Megan Tibbitts, a 22-year-old biochemistry and molecular biology major from Dallas, Ga.

Tibbitts said that while it may be possible for a newly minted graduate like herself with a bachelor's in the sciences to find work right out of college, she doesn't expect to thrive. 

She plans to attend the pharmacy school at Mercer University in Macon, having become enamored with the prospect of a life in pharmaceuticals after taking a class at the University.

For Andrea Pierce, a 22-year-old biological sciences major out of Loganville, the decision to attend dental school in Augusta is based on flexibility.

Pierce said the Univesity of Georgia's pre-med and pre-dental programs are very similar, but the dental education appealed to her because a dentist enjoys more freedom than the typical medical doctor, who has to learn to expect anything while on call. 

25-year-old Kenneth Lyon, another biochemistry and molecular science major, said he wil be returning to the University of Georgia as a graduate student out of a desire to be a part of cutting edge research into stem cells.

"I could get a technical job," said Lyon, "but I would rather just get my degree." He suspected that any sort of job he got on the strenght of a bachelor's degree would consist of tedious work like data entry.

Cellular biology major Macus Hines, of Albany, Ga., has similar plans, which will take him to New York University on a six to nine-year plan to study cancer biology.

Hines said his MD/PhD program is fully funded, so the costs normally associated with higher education aren't weighing on his mind.

Brian Watts, a 22-year-old ecology major from Douglasville, won't have to pay an arm and a leg for his next leg in life either, but he's taking a much different approach.

Already having earned a Fulbright scholarship as an undergraduate, Watts will be spending the next year in Korea as a teacher, and the Fulbright Program will foot the bill.

Watts said he hasn't given grad school much thought, but he said he would certainly look into grants if he changed his mind.

"I've had to pay for undergrad and get student loans for that, so I am well-acquainted with loans," said Watts. "If I have to go to grad school, I would definitely want to go for free."

Vanessa Oduah, a 21-year-old biology major from Covington, agreed that it's expected of science majors to continue their education, and she isn't going to buck the trend.

However, she said her major isn't forcing her into grad school.

She suspected she would have been just as likely to choose a graduate program over the job market even if she had studied an entirely different discipline.

22-year-old Robert Halbin of Snellville did study something entirely different, and that earned him a bachelor's degree in management information systems from the Terry College of Business.

Halbin found a job with General Electric through the university's Dawglink website. That's a resume-building and job-hunting tool for students attending the UGA. 

Halbin said some Terry majors, like accounting and finance,  need a master's degree more than others, but he described his major as being lucky enough not to need a master's degree in most cases.

He said he wouldn't pursue another degree unless he had to get one to stay competitive. 

Mathematics major Adam Dugan shared Halbin's sentiment. The 23-year-old graduate from Fayetteville said mathematicians generally don't have to worry as much about higher education as students in other disciplines.

"I've been told any and every company needs mathematicians," he said. "These companies need someone to go through data to find what consumers like to buy."

However, he hasn't totally discounted grad school.

Dugan named the three major options in his life right now as grad school, finding an internship and teaching.

Of the three, Dugan described a master's degree in physics or engineering as the option that would give him the most opportunities later in life, but applying for internships has been his major concern.

Wherever he lands, Dugan said he will always keep one idea in mind to stay competitive in the job market: Specialization. 

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