Deciding on Graduate School

Deciding on Graduate School

What is Graduate School, and should you go?Graduate-Degrees-150px.jpg

Graduate study differs from undergraduate study in that it involves becoming more specialized and focused in a particular area of interest. More often than not, graduate programs require not only taking additional courses, but also active participation in research study and/or practica, internships, externships and clinical experiences. Graduate study allows a student to develop specialized skills to practice in certain professions or conduct research.

Categories of graduate degrees

  • Research  Degrees
    • Master’s degrees typically involves two or three years of study and confirm specialized study in a specific field or professional practice. St. Catherine University Master's Degree Programs
    • Research Doctoral Degrees usually takes four to six years of full-time study plus several years to complete an in-depth dissertation.  The research doctoral degree, Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) involves training in research and prepares individuals primarily for careers in academia or research centers.St. Catherine University Doctoral Programs
  • Professional Programs  Professional programs are required for careers that often require licensure such as: Medical Doctor, Attorney, Occupational Therapist, Dentist, Physical Therapist, or Pharmacist. See pre-professional guides for deciding if this is the career for you and the St. Catherine Experience advising tools.

Whether or not to attend graduate school is a decision that deserves careful consideration. Some students pursue graduate studies simply because they lack another career focus. However, the high cost of the degree, intense workload, and low rate of completion can make graduate school a costly decision. Know the cost of the degree and calculate the return on investment. Research fellowship opportunities. Additionally, approximately 50% of doctoral students drop out before completing their degree. As you contemplate whether or not graduate school is right for you, consider your answers to the following questions:

  • Am I considering graduate school only because I don’t know what else to do right now . . . as a way to postpone job hunting?
  • What do I see myself doing ten years from now? Is graduate school going to help me get there?
  • Have I talked with enough individuals who are accomplishing (or have accomplished) what I think I want to do? (Informational interviews, faculty advisors, etc.)
  • Do I have a realistic idea of the kinds of work and employment opportunities that this degree will make available to me? What is the completion rate of graduate students in this field?

When to attend graduate school?

Advantages of starting immediately:
  • Maintain the momentum of your undergraduate work.
  • Certain fields recommend continuing immediately after your bachelor’s degree. (Talk to your advisor to see about your field.)
Advantages of delaying your start:
  • Gain valuable work experience within your field.
  • Take time to focus your career goals.
  • Take a break from academia.

How to select a program that is right for you

Begin your research by consulting with people. Talk with your advisors and mentors at St. Kate’s, and with other professionals in the field. Ask where they did their graduate work and get recommendations about specific programs. It is also important to consult with students currently studying in the graduate programs you are considering. You can meet with representatives of graduate and professional schools at the annual ACTC Graduate & Professional School Fair offered each fall. NOTE: The Career Development office can provide you with names of CSC alumni who are currently working in a specific field or attending a particular graduate school.
Continue your research by consulting reference materials. Peterson’s Graduate and Professional Programs provide a comprehensive listing including degrees offered, enrollment figures, admission and degree requirements, tuition, financial aid, housing, faculty and more.  Access current Peterson's guides in the Career Resource Library.
Factors to Consider as you create your list of potential schools:
  • Department specialties

  • Flexibility of curriculum and schedule

  • Admission/pre-requisite requirements

  • Facilities: library, housing, labs, etc.

  • Reputation and quality of program

  • Practical experience opportunities

  • Cost/tuition/availability of financial aid

  • Location/geography

  • Minority students enrolled

  • Faculty/possibility of advisor in your field

  • Ph.D. production and average amount of time to complete

  • Placement of graduates

One of the most crucial things for a prospective Ph.D. student to consider is whether there will be an advisor in your department who can help you advance in your career. When evaluating potential advisors in a program look for the following: tenure/length of time in field, amount of time s/he will be able to spend with you, whether s/he is active and respected in her/his field, and his/her “clout” within the field.

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