Dear Future Graduate Students,
Making the decision to go to graduate school is no easy task. In the coming weeks and months you will have to ask yourself a lot of questions, questions like: "Do I want to earn a master's degree or PhD?" "What field of study interests me most?" "What course of study will help me reach my long term career goals?" "How can I pay for this?" and perhaps most importantly, "What do I really want to be when I grow up?" Since 1996 our team has been working to compile the most comprehensive listing of graduate programs available. Our service is free, and it gives you access to information on over 67,000 programs, across master's degree programs, PhD programs, and certificate programs.
GradSchools.com is here to help you answer these, and other questions, you might have about graduate school. We understand that deciding to earn a graduate degree is a life changing experience, and that this decision is not one that should be taken lightly. I encourage you to take the time to do your due diligence in making these decisions - just think of this process as the first in a long line of research projects awaiting you in the future.
You can use our degree finder app to search for programs by subject area, program format, and location. The degree finder app will search our database and select the available graduate programs that match your unique search criteria. Alternatively, you can use the drop down boxes at the top of the page to search for programs by field of study, view our A to Z listing of programs, or use our convenient search box feature. We are confident that our site has a way to help you become aware of your graduate school options. When you find programs you are interested in select the "request info" button next to the listing, fill out our simple form and your information will be sent to admissions counselors at that school. Then those counselors will contact you with more information about their program.
If you're interested in learning more about what it means to be a graduate student, or you are interested in finding out more about financing options, check out our resources section and blog. We have enlisted the services of several subject matter experts to help us bring you information and tips about the grad school application process, and how to survive and thrive once you enroll in a graduate program.
We wish you luck as you embark on your next great academic adventure! Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help by submitting your questions here.
The GradSchools.com Team
Why Attend Graduate School?
There are many reasons one chooses to pursue a graduate education, butall of them involve opportunity. It could be the opportunity to practice a career that requires a graduate degree, the opportunity to advance in one's career, the potential to earn a higher salary, or for the opportunity to switch careers. While a four-year bachelor’s degree used to be enough to reach most career goals, in today’s world a graduate degree is often required.
Some professions do not require graduate degrees, but it may be helpful or even necessary for career advancement. After a few years working in various business fields, it is common for people to pursue a Masters of Business Administration. Some people may choose to specialize in certain areas of the business world and pursue a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) or a Master of Taxation (MTax), just to name a few. In education, a teacher cannot become an administrator without earning a Supervisors Certificate or a Masters in Educational Leadershipi.
Potential Salary Increase
While advancing in a career could sometimes lead to higher pay, the attainment of a graduate degree also has the potential to increase a person’s earning potential in certain fieldsii. For example, in education, the level of schooling one obtains could determine the pay scale they are on in combination with the amount of years one has workediii. If you are considering going to graduate school for this reason, be very careful to weigh the costs of education (including the loss of earnings if you go to school full time) with your potential salary after graduation. In particular, research the career center of the program you are interested in, to get a feel for the job opportunities available.
Requirement for Employment
For some careers, in order to even be considered for employment, an applicant must hold a graduate degree in their respective area. This is not only applicable for doctors and lawyers, but for careers such as Physical Therapists, School Counselors, Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, and Social Workersivv.
Despite an individual's level of educational attainment, very few people stay in the same career throughout their entire work life. Reasons for career changes vary from being laid off, burn out, or change of interest. However when the time comes to look for a new job, one's past experience may not be relevant enough to switch careers without training.
Fortunately, most graduate degree programs do not require an applicant to have majored in the same content area, which makes it easier for someone to pursue a graduate degree in a new field as long as they at least hold a bachelor's degree. Some do however have prerequisites that a student must take before matriculating. For example, no major is required for medical school, but an applicant needs to have taken the prerequisite math and science courses in order to have the foundation to handle the rigors of a medical programiv.
Types of Graduate Programs
At some point every child is asked what they want to be when they grow up. No matter what the answer is, they will most likely need some sort of education in order to achieve these dreams. More and more careers nowadays require a college degree. In fact since 1990 the percentage of Americans with a four-year college degree has increased from less than a quarter (23%) to a third (33%) according to the National Center for Education Statisticsvii. As a result many jobs that used to not require a college degree now do, such as becoming a police officer. This shift has caused jobs that used to require a college degree to now expect more. It seems as if graduate school has become the new college. When considering the continuation of studies beyond one’s bachelor degree, there are several graduate degree options to choose from including certificates, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees.
Certificate programs generally provide advanced training in a specific area. They are not often required to pursue a career, but give graduates of these programs added credentials that make them more marketable to future employers as well as become specialists in certain areas within their field.
Masters degrees require the completion of a bachelor's degree and typically take one to two years of full time study to completeviii. The most common type of master’s degrees are the Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS), which can be applied to a wide range of content areas. Other common types of master's degrees include Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), and Master of Social Work (MSW).
Unlike with a bachelor's degree where half of a student's coursework is devoted to general education requirements and half to their major, master's degrees are devoted completely to the program's content area. By taking courses in only relevant topics to the program area, a student therefore becomes a "master" in the subject, fully understanding the theories behind it, mastering the skills for practical application, and conducting advanced research. In order to evaluate what master's students have learned, they are oftentimes required to write a thesis paper, do an internship or extensive field experience, and/or pass a comprehensive examination.
Doctorate degrees are often the highest degree in their field of study. Earning a PhD qualifies someone to teach at the university level as they are now considered experts in their field. PhD programs do not have a specified timeline but often take five to seven years to complete. Like in a masters degree, a doctorate oftentimes requires a dissertation in order to demonstrate an extensive expertise in a content area related to the degree.
Professional or practice-based doctorates are required for highly regarded and skilled careers such as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) in order to practice law. These programs are often three to four years in length. Many professions that require doctorate degrees also require the passing of a licensure examination such as the Multistate Bar Examination for lawyers or the United States Medical Licensing Examination (also known as the Boards) for doctors. Other common types of doctorate degrees include Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), and Doctor of Education (Ed.D.).
Graduate School Admissions
Graduate school admissions are similar to college admissions in that a transcript, entrance test scores, essay, and letter of recommendations are all required. When considering graduate school, the first thing one must do is identify which entrance exam they must take. Unlike applying to college where either the SAT or ACT is accepted at all institutions, graduate school programs require different entrance exams based on the type of program one is applying to.
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE)xiiis a general skills standardized test similar to the SAT. Like the SAT there are Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing sections each scored on a 200-800 point scale. For more specialized graduate programs, specific subject-related entrance exams are required such as the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT)xiiifor business school, Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)xivfor law school, and the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)xvfor medical school.
After completion of the proper graduate entrance examination, it is important to identify which schools are likely to accept someone with your undergraduate GPA and entrance examination test scores. Some graduate programs weigh GPA or test scores more than others. For example, law schools are notorious for placing the greatest emphasis on an applicant's LSAT score. According to US News , the LSAT allows law school admissions committees to objectively compare applicants with different educational backgrounds based on their logical reasoning, analytical, and reading skills. These skills are necessary for successful completion of law school and the LSAT has been the strongest and most consistent indicator for law school success.
Once an applicant has built their list of graduate schools to apply to, the application process is fairly similar to the college admissions process. Fill out the application online and send your undergraduate transcript, personal essay, and letter of recommendations. Because there are far fewer graduate programs than undergraduate programs they tend to be more competitive. If an applicant passes the paper round then they are often times brought in for an interview round. These interviews may be one-on-one or in groups. Many times graduate work involves extensive research and the admissions committee wants to ensure that you will work well with others in their respective departments.
Graduate school whether it be a certificate program, masters degree, or doctorate degrees are a huge commitment of time and energy. Understanding one's career goals and the differences between programs can help you evaluate which type of graduate degree to pursue. One thing is for certain: the determination, hard work, and countless hours researching, studying, and writing papers needed to be successful in a graduate program is worth it in the end because obtaining a graduate degree opens up many opportunities that might not otherwise be possible.
Starting Your Graduate School Search
Graduate school is one of the many paths that college graduates pursue after they have obtained their associates or bachelor's degree. Pursuing a masters degree requires an investment of money and time, so it's important to properly research and think through this decision with careful planning and consideration.
Define Your Expectations
Many students apply to graduate programs to change the direction of their career, improve their expertise a field, or meet various employment requirements for their future job. Furthering your education by attending graduate school has a large list of potential benefits, including a possible higher salary pursuing a better position in an industry or enhancing your knowledge. Find graduate programs by subject or search by universities.
Select Your Favorite Schools
After you've established that you’d like to pursue a graduate degree, it's time to make a very important decision. You can find your ideal grad school and program by doing some thorough research. A few factors to consider before applying are the price of the school's tuition, making sure to choose a field of study that suits your interests, goals and personality, and if graduate school aligns with your future professional goals. Then it's time to apply to the program of your choice and begin the next step in your academic journey.
Apply to Graduate School!
Once you have chosen a field of study and found several universities to apply to, the next step is preparing the applications. This involves making sure you meet all of the prerequisites for those programs, preparing for entrance exams such as the GRE, GMAT or LSAT, writing personal statement essays and more. The application process can be lengthy and it is important not to rush the process and to make sure that you are properly prepared. Do you have someone in mind to write you a letter of recommendation? Will you need to take the GMAT or GRE? Be aware of deadlines and take actions to prepare yourself for an excellent application. Best of luck!
"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step"
1 state.nj.us/education/educators/license/sl/ 2 bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm 3 uft.org/new-teachers/moving-pay-scale 3 careerplanning.about.com/od/exploringoccupations/tp/hi_growth_mast.htm 4 myfootpath.com/degrees-and-programs/masters-degree-programs/5-careers-require-masters-degrees/ 5 kaptest.com/mcat/medical-school/medical-school-prerequisites 6 nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=27 7 drew.edu/career/students/gradutate-school/the-graduate-degrees 8 gwu.edu/practice-based-doctoral-programs 9 ncbex.org/ 10 usmle.org/ 11 ets.org/gre 12 gmac.com/ 13 lsac.org/jd/lsat/about-the-lsat 14 aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/ 14 usnews.com/education/blogs/law-admissions-lowdown/2012/11/12/learn-the-5-deciding-factors-in-law-school-admissions