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Pursue Graduate or Professional School

Graduate School is an advanced program of study beyond an undergraduate or bachelor's degree. Making decisions about graduate or professional school can be difficult. Located in this section are some tools and things to consider as you navigate what, when, where, and whether or not graduate or professional school is the best career decision for you. In making this decision it is important to assess your interests, values, goals, dreams, and abilities honestly and realistically.

There is more than one type of advanced degree.

Become familiar with types of degrees and degree levels that are applicable to your career goals, as well as the time and types of experiences required by each.

  • It is important to understand the applicability, marketability and scope of the degree or degrees you are considering, and how they might change your future career path (i.e., possibly narrowing or broadening it)
  • Master's Degrees
  • Doctorate Degrees
  • Professional Degrees (Medical, Law, PharmD, etc.) 

It is important to note that not all reasons for going to graduate school are good reasons

For example, if you are considering graduate school because

  • You want a higher salary, you should first review salary information to see how a graduate degree in your field would likely effect your future salary.
  • You aren’t ready to make a career decision, so you are “stalling,” you should keep in mind that graduate school should be a career decision. Make an appointment at the ECC to discuss your concerns or apprehensions.
  • It seems as if all of your peers are applying to graduate or professional school, keep in mind there is no requirement to go to graduate school. Explore the careers that appeal to you and utilize your bachelor’s degree first.
  • You don’t feel ready for “the real world,” know that this is common, but is not a good reason to commit to the various costs of continuing your schooling. Make an appointment at the ECC to speak with a career counselor. 

Graduate school can be a very beneficial career decision for some students.

Examples of appropriate reasons for attending graduate or professional school are:

  • You have a passionate interest in a particular subject area, and want to increase your knowledge/skill in this area.
  • A graduate or professional degree is necessary for your desired professional field or desired position.
  • It may increase your professional options and future advancement potential. 

Find out whether your career goals require an advanced degree.

One way to gain information about whether or not a graduate or professional degree might be best for you is to talk to individuals who are doing the work you hope to do, or the individuals that hire for such a position.

  • Consider reaching out to alumni over LinkedIn or the KU Mentoring platform, and asking about their position (e.g., what they like about it, what is difficult, what a typical day looks like, what prepared them for their current position, etc.).
  • Set up informational interviews in which you can ask engineers, HR professionals, or others what qualifications or educational background is needed for a particular position, or ask some of the questions listed above, and/or what they might recommend to you.
  • Review occupations of interest in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

It may or may not be best for you to work for a few years before applying to graduate school.

Consider whether or not now is the right time to continue your education.

  • The momentum you have from your undergraduate studies may be beneficial for starting graduate school.
  • However, some graduate programs may require that you work for a minimum number of years before applying. This allows you to learn new applied skills in the field and to recharge your batteries away from the classroom.
  • Another option is to work and find a program that will allow you to be a part-time graduate student. This is an attractive option to many people. 

Think about how you might handle the possible financial burden of graduate or professional school

Figuring out how you might finance your graduate school education can be confusing and stressful. Investigate ways to finance your education before committing to a program. Even if your tuition is covered by your program, stipends are often small. Consider the following:

  • Keep in mind there will always be unexpected costs that arise (e.g., fees, tuition increases, particularly expensive books or materials, etc.).
  • Some programs offer funding packages where you are guaranteed a job for a certain number of years that pays for your tuition and provides a stipend of some amount. Others do not, but such opportunities are often available even when not guaranteed.
  • Make sure to look at the various types of aid available to you: assistantships, fellowships, grants, loans, scholarships, etc.
  • Some employers might finance a Master’s degree after a couple of years with the company. Know if this is an option for you​​​