Choosing to continue your education beyond the bachelor's degree is a big investment of time and financial commitment for you. The best decisions are made with full information from multiple sources. In Career and Professional Development, we provide information sources and events to help you learn more. We are also available to advise you as you engage in this decision-making process, and we can steer you toward research sources that may help you.
Caution: Generally, going to graduate or professional school in order to avoid the job search is not a good idea; it just delays the inevitable. If you want a job and aren't having success finding one, make an advising appointment so we can help you explore the reasons and develop new strategies. Grad school isn't a generic fix for this.
Reality: Grad or professional school is about getting a more specific focus, not about widening your options.
First, establish your goals. Then choose the road to get you there. A road chosen without a goal may lead you to a place you don't want to be.
Five Questions to Ask Yourself First
Before you head to grad school, define your career goals, both long and short term. This is essential. If you have no destination, you can't effectively choose a road to get there.
Research the occupation you want to enter when you complete your education. Make sure you know:
- Educational requirements to enter the line of work
- Additional requirements — certification, licensure, etc.
- Competitiveness of the job market
- Settings in which people do the job
- Characteristics of people who are successful in the work
Start your research with our career research and market information resources.
Are your career goals still vague at this point? Then you're not ready to apply yet. Make an appointment with a career advisor in Career and Professional Development to get some help figuring out where you are headed. A conversation will help determine what might help you make progress.
Familiarize yourself with the entry requirements for the graduate programs that interest you. Do your credentials put you in the running? If not, what can you do to get in the running? For example, consider if volunteer work, internships, employment, field study, undergraduate research, computer or foreign language skills, specific undergraduate or graduate courses, raising your gpa, etc., would make you more competitive? If you don't know, do more research. If you still have questions, you can contact the schools you'd like to attend and simply ask.
Graduate school can involve going into debt, financial aid, applying for assistantships, writing proposals to get grant funding or a mixture. Have you researched this? Is the payoff worth the cost?
Graduate school is not like undergraduate school. The expectations and the workload are much higher. Do you have strong self-discipline, excellent time management skills, and can you juggle graduate school with other aspects of your life — personal and professional?
Getting a graduate degree does not guarantee you a job. The job market doesn't have feelings and it doesn't create jobs just because people happen to be trained for those jobs. Make sure there's an expected market for your skills when you finish, and that you'll be competitive in that market. Know your competition. If most people in your graduate program have work experience before graduate school, and you don't, that makes you less competitive.
- For those considering Ph.Ds and academic careers:
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Explore the entire site. The Chronicle covers everything post-graduate, from general advice to articles exploring academic culture, and guides to the application process.
- Graduate School in the Humanities
The Chronicle again, but this discussion merits specific attention. William Pannapacker, under the pen name Thomas Benton, is an associate professor of English at Hope College, in Holland, Michigan, and discusses the job market for Ph.Ds in humanities.
- 100 Reasons Not to go to Graduate School
Just so you know what you're getting into.
- Graduate School is Art School
Eliza Saavedra responds to the above blog with 10 reasons to go to graduate school, and how to enjoy the time you spend pursuing your doctoral.
- Making a Reasonable Choice
William Pannacker again, this time describing a reasonable approach to considering graduate school.