Professional Graduate Schools
Perhaps the most valuable sources of information in considering which professional programs/degrees you should pursue are the working professionals in that particular field or industry. Begin by talking to alumni or other contacts that you’ve developed. Your professors may also have suggestions, especially if they have industry experience or consult on projects in that field.
Factors to Consider
- Type of program: Because requirements vary significantly from institution to institution, take time to compare what will be expected of you in each program under consideration. What degrees are granted? What is the length of time to complete your degree? Do you have prerequisite courses to fulfill before starting your program? Are the faculty bound by a common theoretical philosophy or are their interests quite diverse? Are there internship or thesis requirements? Is there an emphasis on team projects or other kinds of collaboration?
- Quality of program: Unlike undergrad, you will want to look much more carefully at the particular department or program that you are interested in rather than the institution as a whole. Consider the following: (1) appropriate curriculum and expertise of faculty; (2) reputation of the school, faculty, and alumni/ae; (3) admissions standards and care taken in selection of graduate students; (4) by whom the program is accredited. Base your decision on what the program has to offer YOU. Once again, use recommendations by people in the field to help evaluate the quality of programs that interest you.
- Satisfaction of current students: Ask for the names of students currently enrolled in the program and get their perspectives on what the program and the faculty are like, as well as the "live-ability" of the community. What are their impressions of the faculty's commitment to students? What advice do they have about securing assistantships and other financial assistance? Do they have recommendations for housing options at the university or within its community?
- Location and size: Are there opportunities for practical experience or projects in the community around the school? How near will you be to family and friends? How big is your department? What is the faculty to student ratio? What will the size of your classes be? If you need licensure or other qualifications for your intended profession, do you want to practice/work in the state the program is in? There may be reciprocity with other states, but keep in mind that graduate school is where you will really begin to build your network in your professional field.
- Personal background: In what type of setting do you feel most comfortable (urban/rural, large/small institution)? If you are in a significant relationship, can your partner find desirable employment or educational opportunities?
- Cost and financial assistance: Find out how many times in the past few years a school’s tuition costs have risen. How does the cost of living of the area compare with that of other places? What are the opportunities for fellowships and assistantships?
- Resources and facilities: What kind of support services is available particularly for graduate students? Is there funding support for conferences and research? What are the facilities like?
- Career paths of graduates: What have graduates of the program gone on to do?