Choosing a Grad Program
As a potential graduate student, it is important to choose your program carefully, as there are many options. There are many considerations; whether to go part-time or full-time, or whether to limit your search by location or cost. You should ask yourself the questions below to help you determine the best course of action.
What is my timeframe?
One of the first questions the prospective graduate student has to ask is: “how much time do I have to devote to this endeavor?” You may be able to attend full-time, or you may need to go part-time in order to earn money or to meet other commitments. Determining your timeframe can help to sort out many aspects of how you will pursue your graduate degree. Any certificate program beyond the basic, introductory program can take up to one year, full-time. A master’s degree will usually take two years depending on the field and writing requirements. A PhD can take three years—or more depending on the dissertation. A full-time law student will attend three years of law school, while a part-time student can obtain a degree in four or more years.
Does my present circumstance provide a secure foundation for pursuing a graduate degree?
Some individuals wait for the “perfect” time to return to school. Sometimes the “perfect” time never comes. You’ll always be balancing obligations, but it is important to position yourself for a successful experience. School location, support of family, availability for travel, study time and work commitments are incredibly important considerations. These issues challenge you to explore the balance between your life circumstances, funding options, time and money as you go forward with your plans to find the best graduate school possible for you. It is important to note that there are hundreds of fine programs. Often, what makes a program “best” is how it works for you.
Do I just want the credentials?
You might think that you need the credential of a graduate degree to get a job. That’s a fair reason for going to graduate school. There are many professions that demand certain academic program attainments. Be sure that you know what kind of privileges your particular program’s credentials will afford you. And, if your job requires certification, stay up to date on acceptable courses.
In your chosen field, does having an advanced degree set you apart when it comes time for an employer to decide who is most qualified for more opportunity, responsibility and compensation? In some settings, salary and promotion are directly related to advanced training. If the above is true for your chosen field, then a graduate degree is a significant investment in your own future. If not, there are other ways to enhance your professionalism.
Will other people be impacted by my choice?
Others may well be impacted by your choice. Whether it is leaving professional colleagues or family members, others may have concerns as you pursue your degree. You need to determine ahead of time if that will have any detrimental effect or be a significant component as you choose your program. During challenging times, encouragement and support from others may be crucial.