Graduate Study Requires Choices & Decisions
As students consider how to design an academic program that suits their interests and goals, another question often arises: Should I (or do I need to) go to graduate school?
One outstanding place to start in answering that question is the BSU School of Graduate Studies, which not only administers online and on-campus master’s degree programs at Bemidji State University, but can help you understand what’s involved in applying to and beginning graduate-level study at BSU or elsewhere.
Experts often answer a question with a question — or as is the case with graduate school, several questions. Your answers to the following two questions can help you decide whether pursuing an advanced degree makes sense, and if so, how to approach it.
1. Why do I want to go to grad school?
• Career: Many of the reasons students consider grad school have to do with improving their opportunities to be hired, increase their earnings and move up the ladder in a given career. This might be because they perceive an additional credential to be essential to be considered, or to have credibility in their field.
• Personal: Another group of reasons people pursue graduate school are more personal. Some people feel pressure from their family to get a graduate degree, or to match up to their friends, or to feel better about themselves.
• Uncertainty: Pursuing a master’s degree is certainly one option to entering the job market after graduation, but if that choice is driven by indecision about finding the right career path, spending more time and money on education with unclear benefit usually isn’t a wise choice. It’s better to stop and use career assessment tools like those available from Career Services to first determine what you want to do in life.
2. Why do I want to do this now?
• Time and money: Moving from a bachelor’s degree right into a master’s program sometimes makes sense because it allows students to continue learning before they are channeled in a certain direction by their first job. Also, because they’re not yet holding down a professional-level job, they have the time to spend on in-depth coursework and research. It also may be easier to continue spending money on education because they’re already in a mode of working to pay college bills, or because family support, loans or other sources will still be available.
• Career advancement: For people who have already started in the career direction they chose as an undergraduate, pursuing a master’s degree may make sense because their employer is encouraging them to do so — and perhaps is willing to help pay for it. Even with out that financial support, it may make sense to gain additional knowledge and a higher-level credential to move up from a career plateau, to specialize in an area of interest and opportunity or simply because it is logical next step for them professionally.
3. What type of academic or professional degree am I seeking?
- Career field: The expectations for a post-graduate degree, as well as the benefits that may come from it, vary widely from one career field to the next. Make sure you do your homework to understand the situation and outlook in the career you want to pursue. Seeking a master’s degree is not a decision to be made lightly, based on what you “think” you need or what you’ve heard along the way.
- Passion to learn: Often students pursue graduate school because they are simply passionate about their chosen field. In some cases, earning a graduate degree is the only way to turn that passion into a career because of the research component in master’s programs, as well as the opportunity to consider a doctoral degree and make a career in research and teaching.
Other Questions Ahead
If you are confident grad school is right for you, then there are many other questions to answer, such as where do I want to study? It might be close to home, across the country or in another country altogether. What type of program is right for me in terms of: academic expectations, learning style, public or private, area of emphasis, reputation and cost? Do you want to attend full-time or part-time? Online or on campus? And those are just for starters.
Graduate School Resources
On our Grad School Resources page, you’ll find guides on how to write a personal statement or CV (curriculum vitae) as well as other links to information to explore as you consider the important questions about possibly pursuing an advanced degree.