Graduate/Professional School Preparation
Should I attend Graduate/Professional School?
To answer this question you must determine the profession or career you want to pursue. Many professions/careers require a graduate degree, but you must narrow down your field of interest to become aware of the academic requirements and graduate degree required. Most graduate schools require an undergraduate degree (or Bachelor's) to be eligible for admission.
A Master's degree is typically the next step after a Bachelor's degree and usually takes 1-3 years to complete. A doctorate degree takes four years or more. Law school is a three year commitment and medical school is generally four years plus additional years of internship and residency.
Before you decide to go to graduate school consider these things:
- Do I have a clear career path defined that requires an advanced degree?
- Talk with people in the field, on the job, and ask about work tasks, job required skills and abilities, and the necessity of having an advanced degree including all the pros/cons.
- Should I just take some time off before I apply to Graduate School and gain work experience and confirmation of my career path?
Good reasons to attend graduate school:
- Required for the profession - Some professions require professional degrees such as a medical doctor or dentist.
- Not required but recommended - Some professions do not require a professional degree but your chances of entering the field increase with it.
- Enhance your skills - Some people feel the need to enhance their skills and broaden their job prospects.
- Increase your chances for advancement - Pursuing a professional degree may enhance your chance of promotion.
Bad reasons to attend graduate school:
- You are not sure what else to do - you are lost and unsure of which career to pursue.
- You are unable to find a job - graduate school may not be the answer, it does not guarantee a job and will cost you money.
- Other people are directing you toward graduate school - you will be exhausting time, effort, and money toward graduate school, so it is important that it is your decision.
- You are looking for prestige - you may receive some recognition by having an advanced degree but it does not ensure happiness or the ability to pay your bills.
- You want to delay paying back your student loans - pursing employment and paying back your loans will be a better choice if graduate school is not truly your purpose.
Will attending graduate school increase my income level?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Education pays in higher earnings and lower unemployment rates."
Approximate median weekly earnings in 2012 by degree were:
- Professional Degree
- Master's Degree
- Bachelor's Degree
Which graduate program do I choose? Which one is the best?
It is good to use a variety of resources to evaluate graduate programs. The reputation of the department/program and the faculty in that program is extremely important when choosing a school. Your current faculty advisor and professors are a great resource to use when choosing a graduate program and school. There are also organizations that rank graduate schools, but the rankings can be controversial.
Graduate School Ranking Organizations:
- U.S. News & World Report (Annually publishes its America's Best Colleges Report)
- U.S. News
- Business Week, the Economist and Forbes
- Princeton Review
Examples of Graduate Degrees:
For a full listing refer to Peterson's Graduate & Professional Programs.
- MA - Master of Arts
- MS - Master of Science
- PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
- MFA - Master of Fine Arts
- EdD - Doctor of Education
- MD - Medical Doctor
- JD - Juris Doctor in Law
- MBA - Master of Business Administration
Application Process and Admissions Requirements
It is highly recommended that you visit the school(s) of your choice and ask questions of the students and faculty to see if it is a good fit for you. Below are some good questions to ask:
- Application process including deadline to apply.
- What is the faculty/student ratio (how many students do faculty advise and mentor)?
- What financial help or funding available (Fellowships, Grants, Assistantships, Scholarships).
- What pre-requisite classes are required for admission?
- What is the GPA requirement?
- What professional exam needs to be taken such as the GRE and what score is required from that exam?
Practice exams to help you in preparing for your graduate exam: www.examfocus.com
Useful Websites for Locating a Graduate School or Professional Program
General Graduate School Sites
- GraduateGuide.com - Search for graduate schools by key word search, major, and geographic location
- GradSchools.com - Information about national and international graduate programs, test preparation, financial aid, and tips on writing application essays
- US News and World Report Graduate School Rankings - Graduate program rankings by academic area
Specific Graduate School Sites
- American Medical Association - Medical Schools in the US and Canada
- American Academy of Physician Assistants - Physician Assistant Programs
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing - Schools of Nursing
- American Physical Therapy Association - Accredited Physical Therapy Programs
- American Occupational Therapy Association - Accredited Occupational Therapy Programs
- American Veterinary Medical Association - Accredited Veterinary Medicine Programs
- Association of American Law Schools - Accredited Law Schools