I’ve decided I’m not going to graduate school — not now, anyway. That means I hope to start full-time work upon graduation.

The decision wasn’t easy. On one hand, I’m a pretty curious guy, and graduate school would present a significant intellectual challenge and an environment full of bright people. A master’s degree would be a nice thing to have on my resume, and statistics show that people with master’s degrees make more money than those whose highest degree is a bachelor’s.

On the other hand, I’ll be able to find stimulating work and bright people in the workplace, too, and a university isn’t the only place you can learn — I’m pretty good at teaching myself. The main area of computer science that I’d like to study more is machine learning (the process of getting a computer to “learn” something, like how to translate speech or recognize faces in images), so I asked for and received permission to take Baylor’s graduate-level machine learning course next semester as an elective. Finally, if I wait to get a master’s degree, I can do so on a company’s dime and not foot the bill myself. (Yes, graduate students can get funding. No, it’s not that easy.)

But what about those salary figures — will not having a master’s degree hurt my career? Not as far as I can tell. The impression I’ve received from recruiters, fellow students, and work is that a master’s degree, which takes about two years to earn, is no better than two years of work experience. Also, I’ve heard employers don’t pay much attention at all to your resume beyond the last couple years of your life. I’ve done very well at Baylor, so I’d have to do very well as a master’s student just to keep from hurting myself. Finally, I realized the other day that the salary difference I mentioned above may hide a subtle problem: the group of people whose highest degree is a bachelor’s includes people who didn’t make it into graduate school or who didn’t have a shot in the first place. If those in the master’s group are generally brighter — the top 10% of an undergraduate class, according to one of my professors — you’d expect them to have higher salaries regardless of degrees.

I’m happy with my decision. The world of the workplace just moved two years closer.

My internship is coming to a close, and I’m happy to say that the company and I have met each other’s high expectations. I have one week left to wrap things up, give a presentation to a few managers on what I did this summer (and try to keep it under 20 minutes), pack up my stuff, and say goodbye, for now, to my friends here.

Friday my parents came down to see me on an afternoon the company set aside for interns to enjoy with their families. We had a nice lunch, toured the building, and met some of the people I’ve been working with (though both my managers were out of town). Later that day we had a fantastic dinner and visited the River Walk, and the next morning we had pancakes before my parents left. It was a perfect way to spend 24 hours and a welcome mini-vacation for all of us.

I’m kind of giving graduate school second thoughts, or at least making sure I’m serious about it. It’s a difficult decision because I know I don’t need a master’s to get a great, challenging job, but it could be a really good opportunity to stretch my brain and enjoy a little more of the college life in an environment in which all of my peers are my intellectual equals or betters. I plan to pull a couple of my professors aside the first week or two of school to talk with them about it and get their advice. Most of the people here at work have encouraged me to work full-time for at least a year before I decide on graduate school, and my professors will probably encourage me to go to a good school (or simply stay at Baylor) right away, but I know they’ll give me sincere advice, too. It will then be up to me to seriously evaluate the pros and cons and make a decision, hopefully by the end of the month.

For now, I’ve told my managers and the staffing department that I plan on going to graduate school and won’t be available for full-time work starting next year. I expect to be offered a second internship, though, and if I decide to not go to graduate school right now and work for them instead, I’m sure they’ll be able to find a place for me.