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Should you go to graduate or professional school?

Is another mortarboard in your future?

Is another
in your future?

  • Choosing to continue your education beyond the bachelor's degree is a big investment of time and financial commitment for you.
  • The best decisions are made with full information from multiple sources. We provide some information sources and events (links on right sidebar) to help you learn more.
  • We are available to advise you as you make this decision and to steer you toward research sources that may help you.
  • Generally, going to graduate or professional school in order to avoid the job search is not a good idea; it just delays the inevitable. If you want a job and aren't having success finding one, consult an advisor to help figure out why. Grad school isn't a generic fix for this.
  • Grad or professional school is about getting a more specific focus, not about widening your options.
  • First, establish your goals; then choose the road to get you there. A road chosen without a goal may lead you to a place you don't want to be: disappointment.
  • Thinking of staying at Virginia Tech for graduate school?
    Contact Ms. Dannette Gomez Beane, Director, Office of Recruitment and Diversity Initiatives for the Virginia Tech Graduate School;; 540-231-6529.
  • Free, simple, two-minute quiz to see if you are ready to go at kaptest/getready.

Should you go to grad school? Maybe, if you can answer "YES" to these 5 questions:

1. Are your career goals focused?

Before you head to grad school, define your career goals — long and short term. This is essential. If you have no destination, you can't effectively choose a road to get there.

Research the occupation(s) you want to enter when you complete your education. Make sure you know:
- Educational requirements to enter the line of work
- Additional requirements — certification, licensure, etc.
- Competitiveness of the job market
- Settings in which people do the job
- Characteristics of people who are successful in the work
Where to research? Info about careers and the job market has a wealth of sources.

Are your career goals still vague at this point? Then you're not ready — yet — to apply to grad school. Make an appointment with a career advisor in Career Services to get some help figuring out where you are headed. A conversation will help determine what might help you make progress. Career-related self-assessment might be among the things that help.

2. Are you competitive for admission?

Familiarize yourself with the entry requirements for the grad schools that interest you. Do your credentials put you in the running? If not, what can you do over the next year or two to get in the running (volunteer work, internships, employment, field study, undergraduate research, computer or foreign language skills, specific undergraduate or graduate courses, raising your gpa, etc.)? If you don't know, research this, and after you do research, you can contact the schools you'd like to attend and ASK.

3. Can you afford it, finance it, or get funding?

Graduate school can involve going into debt, financial aid, applying for assistantships, writing proposals to get grant funding or a mixture. Have you researched this? Is the payoff worth the cost?

4. Can you handle the workload?

Graduate school is not like undergraduate school. The expectations and the workload are much higher. Do you have strong self-discipline, excellent time management skills, and can you juggle graduate school with other aspects of your life — personal and professional?
(See more advice online below.)

5. Will you be more marketable for employment when you finish (or just more frustrated)?

Getting a graduate degree does not guarantee you a job. The job market doesn't have feelings and it doesn't create jobs just because people happen to be trained for those jobs. Make sure there's an expected market for your skills when you finish, and that you'll be competitive in that market. Know the geographic factors related to the job market for the field you are pursuing. Are jobs concentrated in particular locations, or are jobs geographically widespread? Know your competition. If most people in your graduate program have work experience before graduate school, and you don't, that makes you less competitive.

More advice online:

DISCLAIMER: Career Services does not own or maintain the websites listed below. We provide links as a service to Virginia Tech students.

For those considering Ph.D.s and academic careers:
The Chronicle of Higher Education is essential reading. Read it.
Advice, graduate students, Manage your career, academic culture, more...

A sampling of articles:

Chronicle of Higher Education: Enrollment in Humanities Ph.D. programs
Discussion of Ph.D. enrollment as relates to support of Ph.D. students and the job market.
by Vimal Patel, The Chronicle.

100 Reasons not to go to graduate school
Just so you know what you're getting into....

Chronicle of Higher Education: 10 reasons to consider graduate school... and enjoy time you spend in pursuit of your doctoral degree.
by Eliza Saavedra

Chronicle of Higher Education: Making a reasonable choice
...about whether an undergraduate should consider graduate school.
by Thomas H. Benton, pen name of William Pannapacker, associate professor of English at Hope College, Holland, Michigan.

Planning for grad or professional school

Find schools & programs | applying | admission exams

Should you go?
Five Qs to ask yourself.

Grad & prof school fairs, prep workshops & practice tests

Pre-professional school Advising, clubs, resources

Health Professions Advising Planning for graduate education for all health professions.

Career Services advising
For help on your decision-making and reviewing personal statements.

From The Wall Street Journal

Points to ponder if you're considering an M.B.A.:

Do not get an M.B.A. if you have no idea what you want to do. Business school is an expensive, anxiety-filled, way to figure out a career path.

If you're jittery about being unemployed after business school, stay in the job market until you're clearly focused on what you want to accomplish.