Ten Things to Consider When Choosing a Graduate School
A few tips to help choose the graduate program that’s right for you.
Whether you are coming up to your senior year of your undergraduate education, or just in need of a career change, you might be considering graduate school. During times of economic struggle, many people find it a valuable investment in their future to earn a masters degree or Ph.D. Many more jobs today require or encourage at least a masters degree for entry-level employment or to advance. For example, some employers require accountants to hold a masters degree in accounting or business administration for entry-level employment.
More frequently, employers are requesting that their workers be fully trained and up-to-date on new technology and industry trends. In addition, some professional licenses require at least some graduate courses to remain licensed, such as those for a financial manager, or a healthcare administrator.
There’s a lot to consider when choosing a graduate school, and it can be an overwhelming task if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It's such a big investment of money, time and energy that you want to make sure that you choose the program that’s right for you.
We compiled this list of the questions we think are the most important in regards to your graduate school search. But remember, this list is not comprehensive. There may be other criterion that are important to your educational career that you will want to add to this list, such as job placement or attrition rate, that can help you in your decision.
- Location. You want to find out where the buildings are located. Is it spread across a big city, or centrally located in town community? You will be living in the area for at least two to six years, so you have to make sure that you will be comfortable.
- Quality of life. You will have to reevaluate your entire life in order to attend graduate school. If you have a family, the availability of child care or employment opportunities for spouses will be important to you. You may be able to request this information directly from the school.
- Degree programs. These differ by school. Even if they have the same name, the courses offered might have differing curriculum. Evaluate your career goals and choose a program that will help you best achieve them.
- Cost. It is more difficult to find financial aid for a masters degree or Ph.D. than it is for a bachelors degree. However, there are several options and tips to follow to ensure you get a graduate financial aid package that fits your needs.
- Time. Most masters degrees take less than two years, but if you are taking courses part time, it could take up to four years. Make sure you know how long it will take you to earn all of the credits needed for graduation.
- Resources. The physical facilities of graduate schools are an important factor for success in your graduate studies. You need a library stocked with relevant books and reference materials or labs equipped with appropriate tools to complete your research.
- Faculty. Your professors, graduate advisor and other faculty members should be an important topic in your graduate search. Find out what research professors in your field are currently working on. Ask other students about advisors, as they will be working closely with you on your thesis. In addition, a helpful and friendly administration should also be important, if any problems arise.
- On-campus or online. If you’re an independent learner, online graduate school could be for you. If you thrive on interaction with your peers or professors, an on-campus graduate school might be your best option.
- Ranking. There is no exact science to ranking. They are worth looking at for reference, but don’t place too much importance on them, because you could miss out on the perfect graduate program for you.
- Accreditation. You must attend a school that’s accredited. If not, you’re going to have a hard time getting a job as most employers place little value on unaccredited institutions.
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