By Briana Rossi
Coming into college I was under the assumption that you go for four years and then you’re done, fully equipped to go right into your field of interest. For some fields this is true, but in others there is more to learn after undergrad and specialization may be required.
Whether to attend graduate school is a big decision: it is a mental, financial, and probably physical challenge (I know a full night of sleep will probably be a luxury). Here are a few questions I have been considering before I make my decision.
Why do you want to go?
I have been told many times that you should not go to grad school just to avoid getting a job right out of college, and I agree. You should continue your education to help you reach a specific career goal or to gain greater knowledge in a field that you are passionate about. In many cases a Master’s or PhD may be required to be considered for certain “higher-level” employment opportunities. Do your research and find out the requirements for the jobs that interest you most.
What is the best program for me?
After attaining your bachelor’s degree, you can choose to apply either to Master’s level or PhD level programs. It is important to figure out what program works best for you. Master’s degrees are often seen as professional degrees while PhD’s are more academic and research-oriented. There are also a variety of options even within single fields, and programs such as Master’s in Business, Master’s in Public Health, or Master’s of Fine Arts that can complement a different undergraduate specialty. Even if you don’t have an undergraduate degree in that field, many master’s programs allow you to apply directly as long as you have a bachelor’s degree and completed prerequisite courses.
It is also important to look at the faculty and make sure there are staff in the program with interests that align with your own. This is especially important for programs centered on research.
When is the best time to go?
I know that I am not ready for grad school just yet. I have talked to people who have gone right after graduation and others who waited a few years. Both had good reasons for when they went. I am making my decision based on when I have established a goal and have gathered enough experience to know how to use a Master’s degree to its full potential. You cannot be an undeclared graduate student “exploring your options.” But if you know what you want to do then go ahead and apply!
How can you afford to go?
Grad school is a financial investment and the time in class will take away the ability to work full time. From what I have learned there are many jobs that will pay to further your education especially for government positions. Student teaching positions are also usually available. Other ways to afford school would be through scholarships and loans. It’s important to take into consideration the cost of your program relative to your future expected salary to make sure that you will be able to pay off any loans in a reasonable time frame.
Deciding to go to graduate school is definitely another big decision. Figure out what works best for you and go for it!
Sources and Further Reading:
“A Guide for Potential Grad Students: Should You Go To Graduate School” Peterson’s. 17 Jan 2014.
“Choosing the Right Graduate Degree” Peterson’s. 22 Nov 2013.
“Graduate Scholarships & Financial Aid” Peterson’s. 2015.