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Is Grad School Right For Me?

Many Terps consider graduate studies. But do you know if further education is the right next move for YOU? When you think about continuing on with your education are you considering a master's or doctoral degree? And why? There are good and not so good reasons to attend graduate school. You should consider the pros and cons  of going straight to graduate school versus working for a few years first to earn money,  gain experience, and clarify your longer-term career and life goals.

Reasons to attend graduate school include:

  • You have done the self-exploration and research and you definitely want to be a doctor, lawyer, professor or work in specific career that requires additional training to enter the profession
  • You have a passion for and interest in a particular subject and wish to gain additional expertise on the topic
  • You have appropriate time and financial resources to devote to further education

Reasons not to attend graduate school include:

  • You hope to postpone the “real world” for another two or more years
  • You wish to stay in school longer to avoid a poor job market
  • You lack self-defined career goals and are simply doing what others are telling you you should do next

You may also struggle with the decision to go straight to graduate school or work first. There are positives and negatives to both decisions. Working first can be a good way to gain real-world work experience, clarify your larger life goals and confirm your career goals while saving money. Some graduate programs prefer or require prior work experience. On the other hand, going straight to graduate school may be a better idea if you know your dream career requires further study or you are concerned you won’t be able to return to school in a few years for financial or motivation-related reasons. Set aside time to reflect on your goals and reasons for pursuing graduate study. You may want to talk through your reasons and the information you gather with a faculty member, career advisor, academic advisor,  a faculty member or other trusted resource. 

Earning a doctorate is an incredible commitment of time-4-8 years on average, energy and potential lost wages from delaying your entry into the workforce.Talk to current doc students and program alumni, not just the faculty in the programs you are considering. This will give you a much fuller picture of what you will be getting into. Ask if there is available data about the types of employment graduates obtain after completing their degree and information about career trajectories and salaries 10 or 20 years after graduation.

Before applying, do your homework:

  • Review program options at Peterson's 
  • Once you’ve narrowed down your options, review each program’s website
  • Contact the directors of your programs of interest
  • Speak with a current student in the program
  • Contact and visit potential programs with specific questions
  • Attend graduate school open houses and fairs
  • Speak with faculty, alumni, current grad students, friends and family who are in your targeted profession
  • Seek guidance from UMD’s Pre-Law Advising Office or the Reed-Yorke Health Professions Advising Office, if appropriate

Things to consider when researching your options:

  • Type of program/ degree (PhD, Master’s, professional degree, and more!)
  • Academic prerequisites
  • Size and reputation
  • Location and networking opportunities
  • Job placement rate
  • Curriculum, course load, and concentrations
  • Faculty and staff support
  • Cost and available funding (your own and from the programs)
  • Timing- Is this the right time in your life for graduate school? For your field, is it better to gain work experience first?
  • Full-time vs part-time enrollment
  • Admissions requirements and your eligibility

Take some time finding a program that is a good fit for your long-term career goals. Invest in your future before diving in! Good Luck!

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