By Stella Ko, M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology
Published on April 18, 2018
Updated on Sep. 17, 2018
You might have heard of “grad school” as a potential option after graduating from college. Before deciding whether to apply to grad school or not, here are three questions you may ask yourself first.
Q1. “Okay, so what exactly is Graduate School?”
Keep in mind that wise decisions are usually made based on plenty of information. So, you had better do some homework before you spend time and money for the admission! Generally speaking, graduate school is an advanced program of study focusing on a particular academic discipline or profession. It can be “academic”, “professional”, or a combination of both.
- Academic: Along with the coursework, you will receive training from the program to develop research projects in a particular discipline. E.g., Writing and defending a dissertation/thesis.
- Professional: Along with the coursework, you will complete a full term of practice to develop skills and knowledge for a specific profession. E.g., Doing a one-year internship/practicum.
Q2. “What degrees will I receive after finishing the graduate school?”
In most cases, people who complete graduate programs will earn a Master, Doctorate, or Specialist. The program requirements, length, and funding opportunity will vary by graduate school and degree level you desire.
- Master’s degrees: Completing a master’s degree usually take a full-time student 2 years. Some programs are the “terminal” degree for a profession while others are designed to lead to a doctoral degree (e.g., Master of Business Administration; Master of Education in Counseling Psychology). It should be noted that a related bachelor’s degree may not be required for applying to master’s programs for some fields of study.
- Doctoral degrees/Ph.D.: Completing a doctoral degree usually take a full-time student 5-7 years, including writing and defending a dissertation. Doctoral candidates are trained to be capable to develop independent research and present new knowledge through conference presentations or publications. It should be noted that you may not need a master’s degree to apply to doctoral programs for some fields of study.
- Specialist degrees: Students usually seek for this type of degree to obtain professional certification or licensing requirements (e.g., Ed.S. for school principal or credential for becoming a teacher). Additional coursework, training, or internship may be required in addition to a master’s degree.
Q3. “Do I really need a graduate degree?”
Where do you want to be in five or ten years? Is a graduate degree needed for your ideal career path? Talk to professors, advisors, graduates to learn about what you can do with a bachelor’s degree in your major before applying to grad school.
If you do find out that you will need a graduate degree to reach your goals, try to get a clear sense of your field of interest. The more specific you can get about your interests, the stronger your application will be. This does not mean that you need to come up with an exact title of your master’s thesis but you should be confident that you’ll be passionate about this field without easily getting bored!