The Truth about Graduate School

How did you decide on going to grad school?

I decided that graduate school was in my future when I was in my third year as an undergraduate at Bemidji State. The fisheries/wildlife profession is very competitive, and a Master’s degree gives a competitive edge on obtaining a position in the respected field. After completion of my Master’s degree, I came away with other reasons why going to graduate school is a good idea. The doors that were opened due to the research that was being conducted was a major benefit of going to grad school. I had the opportunity to present my research at a number of public and professional meetings. Now people in the biological field knew who I am instead of being just a student at Bemidji State. The networking possibilities are a very valuable aspect and will open many doors for your future career goals.

Was the GRE really that bad?

Yes, being truthful the GRE is a pain, not so much because it is difficult but because it takes some time to prepare for, and the $125 fee doesn’t help, either. A note of advice: study for the GRE. I spoke with some that said you can’t study for the GRE. While that maybe true for part of the test, the math portion can be studied for. There is no doubt that studying for the GRE helped me. There are online practice tests and other books that are very cheap online or can be rented through the library.

Who are you working with?

My research was funded by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, so essentially I was working for them. I would recommend trying to find a school that has a project-funded assistantship. This is where you are being paid to conduct your research. You can also get paid during graduate school by becoming a teacher’s assistant. Here, here you are typically teaching a few lab courses while conducting your research.

What are classes like?

Courses during graduate school are far more enjoyable than during undergrad. During graduate school the far majority of your courses are geared towards what you are interested in, thus making them more interesting and enjoyable and increasing the chances of getting good grades.

How did you come about working on your specific project?

The DNR was looking to work with BSU on a project concerning Leech Lake. One of my professors knew that I was interested in pursing graduate school and contacted me while I was working in Missouri about the position. Another note of advice: stay on the good side of your advisor and professors, as they will be more willing to assist you in your future goals.

What is it like to write a thesis?

This all depends on the person. Some love to write; others not so much. Either way, a thesis will be written. I would say start early with the literature review and get as much of the baseline info on the topic down. Once the lit review is conducted, the rest of the thesis is relatively easy to write.

What kinds of experiences have you gained while in grad school?

I was particularly lucky in that I was conducting research for an agency in which I wanted to work for. This allowed me to work hand in hand with DNR employees. As stated before, presenting your research at professional meetings is also a key experience. Getting your name out to agencies within your field will only help you in the long run.

What kinds of jobs do you see yourself in after you graduate?

I see myself in a fisheries-related position with either a state or federal agency. Keep in mind there are a lot of agencies out there that you can work for, especially if you are willing to leave the state.


— Craig Jarnot

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