You’ve decided to attend grad school. You have considered your options and researched the advantages of a graduate degree. It’s now time to decide which program you want to pursue. This can be overwhelming considering the many options.
The process does not have to be difficult. You can take actions to make choosing a graduate degree program more manageable–exciting, even. These tips will help you select the right graduate school for you.
Tips to Choose a Graduate School
1. Make a list of your passions, motivations, and interests.
It is a significant investment to pursue a graduate degree. Understanding the ” why” behind this decision is crucial. What are you hoping to accomplish by returning to school? You can gain more specialized knowledge, change your career, get promoted, increase your income potential, or accomplish a personal goal. Make sure you select the right program to help you reach these goals.
Compare the course descriptions and curricula of different degree programs to see if they align with your interests and passions. It can be not easy to graduate school, but it will feel easier if you are working towards something you care about. The first step to choosing the right degree is understanding your expectations and what you desire from the program.
2. Do your homework and investigate your options.
After you have determined your motivations to return to school, take some time to explore the degree programs available in your chosen area of study. Also, consider the potential opportunities they can offer.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook provides a glimpse into typical career paths and the education requirements for each industry. To help you make a decision, the handbook provides market growth forecasts and information about earning potential.
It is also important to pay attention to the structure and focus of each program. A program’s focus may vary between institutions, even within the same discipline. Is the curriculum based on theory, original research or more practical application? No matter your goals, ensure that the curriculum’s focus is aligned with the educational experience that will give you the greatest value. For career changers who don’t likely have any industry experience, a program that offers hands-on learning opportunities and a pathway for completing prerequisites might be a better choice.
Don’t be afraid of using your professional network when conducting research. Talk to colleagues in your field and reach out to alumni from the institutions you consider. You can learn from their experiences as graduate students and on the job market after graduation if the program suits your needs.
3. Keep your career goals in sight.
Consider your career goals after you have explored your options. Then, look at the specific programs that can help you reach them.
You should look at the concentrations available at each institution if you are looking for a specific area of expertise. While one graduate program in education may prepare you for a career in higher education administration, elementary teaching or special education, others might offer specialized programs in classroom technology or special education. You should ensure that the program you select reflects your career goals.
If you aren’t sure where you want to go, you might consider a more flexible degree. A Master of Business Administration degree program can teach skills that apply to multiple careers. This is the career path you want to follow. Make sure you choose a degree that will be relevant no matter where you go in your career.
Look at the credentials that professionals in the field have and learn about the skills employers seek. You should ensure that your degree program provides opportunities to learn these skills. It is important to ensure that the degree program you are pursuing will equip you with the knowledge that you can use in the real world.
Certain professions require licensure and board certification. To become a project manager, one must have completed 35 hours of training to be eligible for the certification exam. It is important to ensure that any graduate program you choose is accredited and meets all certification or licensure requirements.
When looking for employment opportunities after graduation, it is important to think about where you live. For those interested in financial services, schools may be located in Charlotte. For those looking for a career in technology, programs might be found in Silicon Valley.
If you are looking to work in a particular company, make sure to do some research on where graduates from the programs you’re interested in are employed. Many universities have a corporate partnership where employers can recruit graduates to work for them. Find out if your dream business partners with nearby universities.
4. You should ensure that the program suits your lifestyle.
When aligning your career goals, ensure that the degree program you select will fit into your life and allow flexibility. Many options can help you get an advanced degree at the pace you prefer, and in the format you need.
While some degrees can be completed in 12 months, others may take several years. Consider your values and work/family commitments, as well as the type of experience you want to have.
Part-time graduate programs are not for everyone. Part-time degrees may be more suitable for working professionals. You may also want to consider the benefits offered by online and hybrid graduate programs, which allow you to access institutions around the world that might not otherwise be an option.
5. Take into account your finances.
Calculate how much you can afford to graduate school. Don’t forget about the hidden costs such as transportation costs and fees for student activities. Your education is an investment. However, you must be able to cover the cost of earning your graduate degree.
While paying for graduate school may seem daunting, there are many options. As you narrow down the list of schools to choose from, make sure to look at the financial aid available at each school. Some schools offer fellowships or scholarships to graduate students.
Your employer may offer tuition reimbursement to those already working in the industry. This covers a predetermined number of continuing education credits and college coursework applied towards a degree. To find out if tuition reimbursement is available for you, contact your company’s Human Resources department.
These options can help reduce the cost of your education and may also help you gain valuable experience that will enhance your resume. You might also consider your future earnings potential and job prospects when weighing your options. You want your degree to be well worth the time and effort that went into it.
6. Speak to alumni, students and admissions advisors.
It’s crucial to speak to alumni and current students when deciding on your graduate school options. Start by making a list of questions you want to ask.
- Are you getting enough career and academic guidance?
- What are your favourite and least favourite things about your program?
- Are you satisfied with your professors
- Do you have internship and co-op opportunities?
- What do you think about the student community?
- What would you have done differently if you had known before you signed up?
You might be surprised by what alumni and students say about you. This information could prove very valuable in helping you choose the right graduate school.
To help narrow down your choices, you can talk with graduate admissions advisers. These advisors have the experience to guide students in making this decision. They can also provide insight into past students who had similar goals. You can also speak with alumni and mentors to learn more about the available connections and how they might help you succeed after graduation.
7. Get to know faculty.
Faculty is what will make or break your graduate school experience. Reach out to potential professors to get to know them. Ask specific questions about the background of your potential professors to find out if it matches what you are looking to learn.
You should apply to universities with one or more processors that are experts in your field. These professors will help you plan your future collaborations while you earn your degree. Find out if they can support your growth and choose a program that you feel comfortable with.