Considerations Pertaining to
Graduate School

1. Are you simply not ready to commit to a career path?

Graduate school may actually be beneficial in helping you choose such a path, but be careful not to choose a degree that is so narrow you will never get a chance to use it.

2. Do you feel like you could be more qualified and more marketable in your field? Or overall?

With increasing competition on nearly every front, a graduate degree may well be one of the best ways to distinguish yourself from others in your chosen field. In many industries this will place you in the top 5-10% of all candidates for most positions.

3. Are you applying to graduate school because "all your friends are?"

This may be good or bad depending on what industry standards are or are becoming. If your friends are in touch with what's going on in the industry, this may be a vital indicator you can't ignore, but it cannot be the only factor upon which to base your decision. Make sure it is the right timing and decision for you as well.

4. Do you want to enter a profession that requires a Master's or even a Doctorate?

Again, this requires that you understand industry standards. Talk with your professors, and see what they know about the industry. Find professions in the fields you wish to enter and ask what they are seeing as far as trends go. Conduct research in the library's database or on the internet for further insight, and base your decision on these factors.

5. Will a graduate degree really affect your salary?

In most, if not all cases, graduate school can mean an increase in starting salary. Estimates place increases on the level of 50-60% for business master's degrees for example.

6. Are you applying to graduate school because you feel like you have no career options?

Sometimes the job market goes through rough cycles where finding a job is harder than it would normally be. This might be a good time to consider a graduate degree.

7. Are you delaying entry into the work world?

If this is the case, you really need to ask yourself why you are delaying. If you are simply adverse to change, get over it. Change is going to be one of the only constants in your life, and it won't take long to settle into a new position. If it is more than simply life change jitters though, really examine why you are seeking to delay; tough job markets, waiting for your significant other to graduate as well, having an opportunity to continue your education at a reduced rate and having less personal obligations now as opposed to years from now may all be good reasons to start a graduate program.

8. Do you know what your short and long term goals are and how a graduate degree can help you achieve them?

This is important to consider. Make sure a graduate degree will be worth your time, effort, energy and possibly delayed gratification in pay now for better payoffs later.

9. Are you willing to invest the time, energy, and money associated with going to graduate school?
Have you thoroughly investigated these costs?

Make sure it's in your budget to go to graduate school. Scholarships, loans, grants and other forms of aid are available to cover your costs. Make sure your graduate school expenses are not going to place you in a financial hole for years to come and remember any undergraduate expenses you may still have pending.

10. Are you prepared to spend the majority of the next 2-7 years studying while living on a limited budget?

Should you decide to attend graduate school full-time, you may well expect this to be the case for you. Proper planning can ease this time however.

11. Do the graduate schools you are looking at allow you to potentially work full-time while
completing your graduate degree thereby lessening the chances of more long-term "student debt?"

More and more programs are centered on the working adult and have classes one or more nights a week or by internet. Make sure the program you choose fits your learning style, budget, schedule and most importantly your quality requirements.

12. Can a single topic or narrow range of topics sustain your interest for the next 2-7 years?

If you can't answer a pretty solid yes to this question, then the next few years may be quite a struggle for you, and the benefits may not justify the costs.

13. Do you need to take a break from school?

Some people find that this helps them focus. Others know that if they wait they may not return to school at all.

14. Will work experience help you get into graduate school or does it matter for the program you are considering?

This depends solely on the program. Generally distance and otherwise shortened programs require more experience before you can enter the program. On-site programs may not require any experience.

15. Can you get both experience and graduate school at the same time?

Again, many programs are built to meet the needs of an adult with a full-time job. Getting both has the advantages of helping to make you marketable while allowing you to achieve your educational goals. The drawback is that you will inevitably be in school longer completing your degree.

16. Are you comfortable initiating and carrying out independent research required by some graduate programs?

Some programs require much more independence than others. Programs range from almost completely independent to classroom-based and team project learning for most of the program.