For some students and alumni, pursuing graduate school is an integral part of career development. Below are some questions to ask yourself and some factors to consider that may help you decide if graduate school is right for you.

What is Graduate School?

Graduate school refers to learning beyond the bachelor’s level. There are three common degrees at the graduate level for most any subject:

A master’s degree (MS or MA) is typically 1-2 years. These sometimes lead to a doctoral path in the same field, while other master fields are considered “terminal” or the highest possible (e.g., Master of Business Administration). A master’s degree sometimes requires an internship, thesis, passing comprehensive exams, or a combination.
A specialist degree is typically 3 years. These are usually earned in conjunction with a master’s degree. Often, a specialist degree coincides with a professional certification or licensure requirement. For example, a school psychologist will have a specialist, or Ed.S. degree. A specialist degree sometimes requires an internship, thesis, passing comprehensive exams, or a combination.
A doctoral degree is typically 5-7+ years. It is the highest degree possible. There are different types of doctoral degrees, including a PhD, EdD, MD, and JD. These degrees typically require writing and defending a dissertation, conducting/publishing new, independent research, and often practical experience such as a residency.

A bachelor’s degree is always a pre-requisite for obtaining a graduate degree. Though it is not always necessary to have a bachelor’s/undergraduate degree in the same field, some graduate programs do require a particular type of degree, or at least a particular set of courses (i.e., pre-requisites). Even if this is the case, it is not always necessary to obtain a second bachelor’s degree if yours is in something different, and talking to a career consultant can help you determine your options.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • What kind of positions am I qualified for with my undergraduate degree?
  • Will a graduate degree be beneficial for better job offers, higher initial starting salaries, and advancement opportunities in my chosen career?
  • What types of graduate and professional degree programs exist for my chosen career and where are they?

Factors to Consider

  • What are the application procedures and admission requirements? (Including standardized tests such as the GRE or LSAT?)
  • Will the program require a thesis or dissertation?
  • How long is the program of study?
  • What about cost (room and board, tuition, health insurance, and other miscellaneous expenses)?
  • Does the department or university offer assistantships to offset the cost of tuition?
  • Is an internship, practicum, or field experience?
  • Do you have enough relevant work experience?
  • Does the program require passing comprehensive examinations?
  • What is the rate of placement into full-time employment?

When considering graduate school, it can be very helpful to talk with UA professors in your desired field of study. Career consultants can also help you know what questions to ask yourself and how to assess whether graduate school is right for you at the time. If it is, the Career Center can also help you as you formulate your resume and personal statement, among other preparations. If you would like to speak with a career consultant about graduate school, please request an appointment through Handshake.