Graduate school is an advanced program of study that involves obtaining specialized
knowledge in a concentrated or specific field. Graduate degrees are offered on three
levels: Masters, Specialist, and Doctorate.
Masters degrees are offered in multiple fields of study, however some universities
offer only doctoral programs in particular fields. A masters degree program can take
between 1 and 3 years to complete. Some masters degrees are designed to lead to a
doctorate degree while others are terminal degrees for a given profession.
Specialist degrees are typically completed in addition to a masters program and provide
additional training and experience beyond what is required for the masters degree.
This type of degree prepares students for professional certification or licensing.
Doctorate studies typically require the pursuit of original research for an academic
program and take anywhere from 5-7 years to complete.
For further information regarding professional schools such as medical school, law
school, and MBA programs refer to the professional school section.
Questions to ask before deciding on graduate school
Graduate school is a big decision that should be approached in a thoughtful way. Ask
these questions first before sending off your applications:
Will graduate school assist me in meeting my career goals?
Some careers require additional education beyond a bachelor’s degree. If you have
a career in mind, you can check the requirements for the career on O*Net and BLS.
Advanced degrees do not always lead to increased income and job prospects.Occasionally
an advanced degree makes you too specialized and therefore less attractive. Full time
experience is often preferred.
What will I specialize in, and will my interest in that topic remain strong?
Graduate school work is often highly specialized. Choosing your field means researching
the same thing every day for 2-7 years.
Am I ready to re-enter school?
Committing to years more academic and research work can be intensive and strenuous.
If you are not sure you’re well prepared, you can take a gap year(s) between graduation
and your matriculation into graduate school.
Reasons you may want to attend graduate school
Have a clear intent of what career you want to pursue and an advanced degree is required
Desire to immerse yourself in the study of a specific academic discipline.
Desire to practice in a specialized career.
Desire for a complete career change.
Desire for career/salary advancement that requires a graduate degree.
Desire to switch from practitioner to administrator.
Need for professional licensing in your career.
How to prepare for graduate school
Talk with professors, line up research opportunities for junior year, start researching
Know the application deadline for your graduate program
Obtain-faculty-directed research and independent research experience (summer, senior
thesis, or capstone)
Read broadly in the field; take notes on the readings an ideas by majors contributors
in the field
Get to know faculty members from whom you will want recommendations
Study and prepare for the graduate school testing necessary for your program; free
practice tests available through Kaplan
Sign up for testing with enough time before application submission deadlines that
you could take the test(s) once more to achieve a higher score
Research, evaluate and select programs to which you want to apply
Prepare CV or graduate school resume
Figure out a graduate school finance plan
Prepare and submit application materials.
How to research graduate schools
Start researching programs. Utilize US News, Peterson Report, and other ranking and
Reputation of the faculty - What are their academic degrees/credentials and research
specialties? What is the student/faculty ratio? Look at faculty websites if available.
Favor programs with more than one professor who specializes in your specialty. Quality of the program - This is measured by many different factors, many of which
are mentioned below. You may choose to look at graduate school rankings to help you
assess a program's quality; however, the rankings may be based on criteria that are
different from your own. In addition, many scholars, deans, and advisers question
the validity of such rankings.
Financial costs - What are the opportunities for fellowships, assistantships, or scholarships?
What other sources of financial aid are available? Admission requirements - GPA, test scores, undergraduate coursework, specific entrance
Available course offerings - Are courses you need to fulfill degree requirements frequently
offered? Will the course offerings help you meet your professional or educational
Employment - Where are graduates of the program working, and how much are they earning?
Facilities - Consider the quality of on-site facilities such as libraries, computer
labs, and research facilities.
Geographic location - Will studying in a particular location help you meet personal
or professional goals? Student life - Consider the diversity of students, student organizations, housing,
and campus support services.
Graduate School Research Resources
Petersons Grad School - Details about student and faculty demographics as well as key dates and program
Graduate Guide - Search different programs throughout the United States.