Go to Graduate School 

Why Go to Graduate or Professional School?

Some common reasons people choose to attend graduate school are:


  • To satisfy intellectual curiosity.
  • To postpone job hunting and remain in the academic environment.
  • To obtain career entry or advancement in a job.
  • To fulfill others’ expectations.


Consider the following when making a decision:

  • How will I finance my schooling?
  • Am I confident enough in my decision to make the necessary commitment in time, effort, and resources?
  • Will this advanced degree lead me to where I want to be professionally or personally?
  • Do the programs I am considering require or recommend related experience before entry?


What Degrees are Available?

Master’s Degree (M.S., M.A., M.Ed., etc)

  • Course-type program: Students complete a required program or study.
  • Comprehensive exam program: Students complete required coursework before passing an exam. 
  • Thesis-type program: Students complete required coursework and must submit a thesis (original piece of research)
  • Proficiency program requirements: Many of the creative disciplines (music, dance, theater, art) offer programs requiring the student to demonstrate proficiency to graduate.


Professional Degree

These degrees are awarded upon completion of a program of study that prepares individuals to enter certain professions. Though the degree may contain the term doctor, a professional degree is the initial degree awarded in that area. Master’s degrees and Ph.D.s may be available in conjunction with the professional degree. 


Doctoral Degree

These are the highest degrees awarded. In addition to completion of an academic program of study and a comprehensive exam, the majority require a dissertation (a significant work of original research)


Post Doctorate 

These are not degrees but simply advanced study, research, or training in a particular area.

How Do I Choose My School or Program?

If possible, start early to give yourself a year or more to explore and choose.


Research Possible Programs

Identify programs in your chosen field. There are helpful resources available, including reference books such as:

  • Peterson’s Guides to Graduate and Professional Study
  • The Chronicle Four-Year College Databook
  • The Official GRE/CGS Directory of Graduate Programs 
  • Edition XII Worldwide Directories of Postgraduate Studies 


Noteworthy websites to check include:



Make sure to:

  • Contact departments directly for materials describing the department, programs, and courses in detail.
  • Get copies of the university bulletins/catalogs.
  • Review institutional and departmental websites.


Determine Accreditation

Rankings are one aspect to consider when evaluating gad programs. However, it is perhaps more important to consider accreditation, a designation given to a program that has met standards set by a third party organization. For example, the American Psychological Association sets standards and provides accreditation for graduate programs in counseling and clinical psychology.


Accreditation can be lined to many issues, such as obtaining financial aid, professional credibility, and certifications or licenses. 


Choose Where to Apply

After completing your research, select the programs you will apply to several programs, ranging from an ideal choice to a back-up. Create a chart of deadlines, fees and contacts to help you keep track of this information. Begin the application process at least one year before you plan to enter your graduate program!


Consider how compatible the department or program is with your goals. A visit to the program is often the only way to see if the program is the right fit. Ask yourself:


  1. What is the cost of the degree? What forms of assistance are available? Are there assistant ships, fellowships, scholarships, or other forms of institutional awards available that would help meet your expenses?
  2. What is the quality of the program? To determine this, you will need to know if the department is accredited by an appropriate entity, if faculty are publishing in your area of interest, if any faculty have been recognized with honors in their field, and how recent graduates are employed.
  3. What other features of the program are important? This will depend a lot on your situation but may include program length, time classes are offered, entering and actual class size, and program requirements (comprehensive exam or thesis/dissertation)
  4. What is the culture of the program? Is it research-or application-centered? Are the faculty members active in their field and do they involve students in their professional endeavors? How do faculty, staff and students get along with one another? The best way to answer these questions is to visit the program, speak with faculty and students, sit in on classes, and observe.
  5. How do you compare to these admitted? In other words, how do you stack up against the competition? What are your chances?
  6. Will the program lead to a license or certification? If you are entering a field where a licensure or certification of the program meet the necessary requirements?