You’re approaching the end of your undergraduate degree and can’t believe that it’s finally over. Three, four, maybe even five years of study is all about to wrap up in just a few weeks’ time. A pat on the back is definitely well deserved and maybe you’re even gearing up for one last rodeo at the uni bar. But then what? You don’t want to be left standing there on graduation day, testamur in hand, eyes wide open in sudden realisation thinking: what on earth do I do now?! This is why you might be thinking about two things – getting serious about your career path or studying a postgraduate degree.

Both pursuits are great options that will challenge and reward you for different reasons.

Enrolling in postgraduate study (an honours degree, master’s degree or PhD) means you’ll spend hours reading, researching and writing about a subject you love, experimenting with new technology, potentially teaching brilliant young minds and, of course, maybe even conferring the title Doctor or Professor one day. Wouldn’t that be sweet?

At the other end of the spectrum, though, life pulls in the opposite direction. In the ‘real world’ you can meet new people outside of the classroom, learn new, practical skills in fresh environments and earn some serious money relatively quickly. With a full-time pay check you’ll be able to travel, go to festivals, rent that great unit and upgrade your wardrobe. Wouldn’t that also be sweet?

But surely you can’t have both, right? You can’t start your professional career and extend your love of learning, can you?

In actual fact, with the right mind set and a little bit of flexibility, you can do both, pursing your next degree whilst building the foundations of your dream career.

You just have to study part-time.

You may have never considered part-time study and think that it’s better to simply focus on ‘getting it over and done with’, but this is an undergraduate mindset.

When you’re studying for your undergraduate degree you don’t have much clout when it comes to getting a job or networking with people. Once you graduate though, lots of doors start to open in the way of jobs, internships, cadetships, clerkships and grad programs.

In contrast, postgraduate study doesn’t appear to be so urgent in that you’ve already got the initial ‘piece of paper’ (your bachelor’s degree) and the basic skills you need to enter the workforce. Anything more can be seen by employers as icing on the cake. Similarly, you don’t want to be over qualified but lack industry experience!

So what will you need to do in order to kick those goals in both academia and the ‘real world’?

Firstly, you’ll need to commit to part-time study as well as full-time or flexible work. It will take you longer (up to twice as long) to finish your degree or research, but that’s a small sacrifice to make if it means you’ll be able to start building your professional network sooner. By the time you graduate you will have two or three years of industry experience over other graduates but with the exact same degree.

But the most important thing you’ll need to do is to find a subject that you’re passionate about, that you’re going to stick with for a long time. If your area of passion is relevant to your budding career path then that’s even better.

Instead of choosing either/or, choose to have the cake and eat it too.

Tym Yee is a writer at Optus and research student at Macquarie University.