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8 Crucial Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going to Grad School

November 17, 2014 - Posted to Writing tips

Content 8 questions

So, you are finishing your Bachelor’s and you are wondering if grad school is a good next step.

You have been out in the working world for a while and you are wondering if going back for a grad degree would be a good long-term option? 

Before you make any decisions, ask yourself these 8 simple questions:

  • What is graduate school?

You already know the general answer to this question. But here are a few quirky details.

If you are going for a Master’s, you should know that the minimum credit hours will be 30, and possibly more. Your program will be determined by the department, the coursework will be more rigorous than your undergraduate program and, in most cases, and you will be required to write a thesis – a major research project.

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If you already have a Master’s and are looking at a doctoral program, prepare yourself for a grueling couple of years. Most Ph.D. programs require 80 credit hours beyond a Bachelor’s, or 50 beyond a Master’s. If your grad school involves law or medicine, plan on even more!

In all of this consideration, remember this: In graduate or professional school, you are very much on your own and must have full capacity to learn independently with little direction.

  • How much does grad school cost?

The short answer to this question is a lot!

The long answer is far more complicated and certainly relative.

A public institution may cost an average of $10,000 per year, while an Ivy League school will run upwards toward $50,000.

You must now ask yourself some very serious questions, as follows:

  • Will I earn enough over the life of my career to make this graduate degree worthwhile?
  • Can I afford the cost and still feed myself?
  • What grants, loans, and assistantships are available to help defray the costs?
  • If I have to take out loans, how will I pay them back or am I in a field that “forgives” loans based upon years of future service (education, public service, etc.)
  • Will my current employer pay for at least some of this?

You cannot make a reasonable decision until you have answered these questions for your personal situation.

  • Should I even go to grad school?

There are lots of reasons to go to grad school, and yours must be a good one!

Some career fields demand it. What will you do with a Bachelor’s degree in sociology or psychology? Not much!

On the other hand, a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and a successful result from the CPA exam will set you for a great career.

In highly technical and scientific fields, a graduate degree is almost mandatory. On the other hand, a Bachelor’s degree in many engineering fields may be enough, for you will acquire additional knowledge and expertise on the job.

Only you know your career goals and what the most successful people in your chosen career have in the way of education.

Base your decision on your career path.

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  • Is grad school actually worth it?

In certain career fields, of course grad school will be worth the time and money.

Public school educators, for example, advance on their salary schedules with graduate degrees. IT professionals earn more with each certification they acquire; individuals in scientific careers must pursue advanced degrees if they want positions that are fulfilling and challenging. Someone with an MBA is far more employable than someone with only a business Bachelor’s.

On the other hand, journalists (print or broadcast) can achieve great heights with only an undergraduate degree, if they have the talent.

Take a look at those in your field that are highly successful. Do they all have graduate degrees or not? There is a lot to be said for on-the-job development, as opposed to additional degrees.

  • Where should I go to grad school?

Wow! Here’s a tough question.

And the answer is not simple, because it depends upon your major field of study.

For more generalized fields - social sciences, for example – a public, state institution will be fine. For more specific and technical fields, you will want to seek admission to a school that is known for your specialty.

Law schools, for example are categorized into levels, and anyone who attends a level 3 or 4 institution will have trouble finding a position with a reputable firm.

Other schools are known for medical research (think Duke or Washington Universities) or for journalism (think U. of Missouri), or for engineering (think Cal Tech).

There is plenty of information available on the best schools for each field – make your selections based upon this data.

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  • What should I go to grad school for?

Here’s an easy answer.

If you like the field you chose for your Bachelor’s degree, then pursue you grad degree in the same field.

If you are not thrilled with your initial career choice, then change your career by pursuing a grad degree in something else. Yes, you may have to take some pre-requisites, but we are talking about the rest of your professional life here.

I once knew an RN with a Bachelor’s degree who decided she wanted to be a lawyer. She took additional undergraduate coursework, scored well on her LSAT and got into a great law school. Now she is legal counsel for a hospital!

Another young man (my nephew, actually) got a Bachelor’s in finance and went into banking, a career he came to hate. He always loved animals, however, so decided to become a veterinarian. Yes, he had to lots of undergraduate science courses to qualify but he ended up at the University of Michigan, is not a vet, in business for himself, and loves what he does!

You go to grad school because you have a passion for a specific field; if you do not have that passion, don’t go!

  • What Master’s degree should I get?

What are your goals?

You need to do some serious thinking about what you want to do for the rest of your life before you make any decision about a graduate degree program.

If that degree is a natural extension of a career field you already love, then there is your answer.

If, however, you are thinking about a degree that will take you in a different direction, be prepared to meet the admission requirements and be certain that the degree will be worth your time and effort!

  • How can I go to graduate school for free?

Yes, studding in grad school for free is possible. There are several avenues available.

First, if you are currently a valued employee, your employer may be willing to go the cost – it never hurts to ask. And lots of large companies have a tuition reimbursement program.

Second, if your career field is important enough, there are grants for which you may qualify that do not have to be paid back. If your grades and undergraduate record are stellar, there may be full scholarships and/or grants available. Some universities offer teaching assistantships that will equal the costs of tuition; certain graduate programs are free is you agree to work in a specific field for a pre-determined amount of time.

One unique option: some industrialized countries actually provide free graduate school educations to both their own citizens and to foreigners who meet specific requirements. This might be worth checking out!

The bottom line is this: The value of pursuing a graduate is a really personal decision.

Only you know its value in your chosen career; only you know if you can afford it; only you know if the personal, financial, and long-term benefits are worth it. 

Do you have more questions about grad school? You can always ask them on TrustEssays Facebook Page and get help from one of recent graduates!

 

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