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Considering Graduate or Professional School

Depending on your career goals and readiness, you may choose to go to graduate school right after completing an undergraduate degree or wait until you've entered the workforce.

Choosing graduate or professional school can be the next step needed to help you reach your career goals.


Uninterrupted studies

Student fatigue

May open up career possibilities that require graduate school prior to entering the career field

Lack of work experience that may be necessary to maximize the graduate school experience

Admissions criteria, assistantships, or financial aid may be more available now May incur additional educational costs to attend graduate school, and may forgo earnings available through working prior to graduate school

Entering the workforce and then attending graduate school has a different variety of benefits and challenges.


Advanced degree may be required to achieve your career goals, or leadership roles

Family or life responsibilities and roles may make achieving graduate educational goals more difficult

Work experience provides a foundation of knowledge in oder to target your graduate education

Could be difficult to mentally return to student mode after working

Financial stability or support to attend graduate school provided by an employe


Graduate or professional schools is a large time and financial commitment. Make sure that you take the time necessary to evaluate this decision and commitment. 

Connect with experts on campus

Feel confident in your decision with a supportive team of professionals in your corner. Campus resources can help you find resources, talk through options, and help you position yourself for success.

Masters vs. Doctoral Degrees

Before choosing a graduate school program consider if you should apply for a masters or doctoral program. Both will further your career goals but have varying requirements and commitment levels.

  • Master's Programs
    Typically offers the opportunity to pursue full-time or part-time. Length of program can vary but usually takes 1-3 years of full-time study to complete. End of program requirements are usually a thesis, paper, or comprehensive exam. These programs can lead to professional work, teaching, or further education through a doctoral program.

  • Doctoral Programs
    Usually offer the opportunity to pursue either full-time or part-time. Length of program can vary between 3-7 years of full-time study. End of program requirements usually include a dissertation and can lead to teaching, research, professional, or post-doctoral work.

Evaluating Graduate Programs

Consider all the factors before deciding to apply to a graduate or professional school. Research online or network with current students or alumni to ask about their experience.

  • What specializations are available?

  • Does the program focus on theory and original research or practical application?

  • Is real work experience, such as internships or practicums, provided?

  • Is the curriculum structured or flexible?

  • Are there opportunities to work on research projects?

  • Who are they and what are their credentials?

  • What research projects have they conducted or published?

  • Do the top scholars teach or are they primarily involved in research?

  • What is the faculty to student ratio?

  • Is the university accredited?

  • Is the program nationally ranked in terms of excellence?

  • Is the program well established or relatively new?

  • What is the faculty and student composition?

  • Will you have the opportunity to work with students from various backgrounds?

  • What multicultural experiences do the faculty bring to the classroom?

  • What are the tuition and fees?

  • What financial aid is available? Research loans, scholarships, internships, and work study opportunities.

  • Are teaching and research assistantships available?

  • Consider the weather and political/social climate. Do you want to live here for several years?

  • Would you be happier in a small college town or larger city?

  • Does the are offer cultural and recreational activities that you are interested in?

  • What are the employment opportunities in the area?

  • Size of the institution

  • State regulations or residency requirements

  • Available career assistance during and after the program

  • Networking contacts and career mentors

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