Is Graduate or Professional School in Your Future?
Ironically, undergraduate students are often surrounded by hundreds of graduate students pursuing degrees in the Humanities, Arts and Sciences & STEM, but often know very little about how graduate and professional programs fit into their idea of the future. Luckily, those same graduate students, along with professors, advisors, and other professional staff members are an excellent source of information about the how's and why's of postgraduate training. Need some more help? Download the Graduate School Handout. Five things that will help you decide.
- Talk with UCR Faculty and Graduate Students about their work and their decision to go into academia/research.
- Get involved with undergraduate research. There are many opportunities and you can learn about them at the Undergraduate Research Office, and find current research opportunities with faculty at the Undergraduate Research Portal.
- Talk to masters and doctoral level Alumni working in business, education, or industry and ask if they would take the same path again.
- Faculty make admissions decisions, not the people working in admissions offices. Speak to faculty about what they look for in prospective graduate students, especially if you would like a seat in their next MA/MS or PhD class.
- Talk to family and significant others about your desire to continue your education. Even if they never attended college, they will be able to help you understand the kind of financial and emotional support you can expect.
Five Myths that May Change Your Mind.
- I need to pursue a graduate degree to find any kind of job in the sciences or psychology. This may not be true. While some career paths in the natural and behavioral sciences require post-graduate education, many do not. Most science and liberal arts fields have career paths with only undergraduate training.
- Since I don't have much experience, but I am a successful student, a good strategy is to go to graduate school to better equip me for the job market. This is simply not true. Many students find after earning a graduate degree with no practical experience, it is actually more difficult to find a job.
- Grad school is a great way to increase my earning power. Remember that grad school costs money... lot's of money. Be sure to calculate your "tuition debt" when calculating your earning potential. Sometimes the slight increase in earnings will not offset the expense of your degree.
- My family and friends say that I should go to grad school now, while I am still in the "study mode." There is no research that suggests that grad students do better immediately after completing their undergraduate degrees. If you are the least bit "burned out" on school, imagine how you will feel three, four, or five years from now.
- My undergraduate GPA is really not good enough for Medical (Law, Dental, Pharmacy) School, so a master's degree will help "fix" my GPA. Not a good idea. Most professional schools consider ONLY undergraduate records when making admissions decisions. Contact admissions officials before you invest in a graduate program.
Resources for Detailed Information.
- PHDS.ORG is a cool site that allows you to define your search according to major, diversity, financial support and number of other variables. It is highly customizable and will provide an interesting and personalized search.
- US News & World Report ranks graduate programs each year. Remember that there is a certain subjectivity to rankings and that the retirement or transfer of two or three faculty could change the face and ranking of a department overnight.
- Petersons.com good place to start your search, The My Peterson's Planner feature organizes and expedites your search. A flexible and robust search engine allows you to search by discipline, state, and degree level.
- Professional organizations are great source for information. For instance, do you think you want a PhD in psychology? APA.org will give you a list of all accredited doctoral programs. The American Economic Association not only lists programs, but resources for preparing, post-grad compensation, and job prospects. ExploreHealthCareers.org gives substantial capsules of careers related to advanced degrees in the health sciences. Try the professional organization in your area of interest.
- GOOGLE, BING, and YAHOO. Seriously, there is no substitute for a comprehensive search engine and great search terms like, "graduate programs biology" or "How do I choose a graduate program in computer graphics." Use your imagination and devote some time to surfing for info.
- Attend the Career Center's Graduate & Professional School Day Fairs to learn more about programs of interest.