Grad School: Considerations for Professionals

Grad School: Considerations for Professionals

By Elizabeth LaScala, PhD

July 1, 2020

People attend grad school for a variety of reasons. Whether you are pursuing a subject you love, seeking to advance your career, or trying something new for the love of learning, here are some things to consider before taking the plunge.

Grad. & Prof. School Admissions and COVID-19

Due to COVID-19, various graduate school admissions exams — including the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, and MCAT — have been postponed or canceled.

This impacts everyone, applicants and schools alike. Delayed or online testing and admissions without testing are options being considered.

Please stay up to date with the organization who administers the test you want to take. They’ll provide updates as the situation evolves.

Progress or career change

As the number of undergraduates grows globally, getting a graduate degree sets you apart from other job applicants. It illustrates your excitement for and deeper understanding of your subject as well as your commitment to your career. A graduate degree can also be a steppingstone to a career change. Taking graduate level courses or completing a Masters degree can be an effective signal to a potential employer that, while you have work experience in one area, you are committed to a shift in your profession.

Consider the level of study you need

Doctoral degrees require many years of study and often a high level of funding. Depending on your intended career path, a Ph.D. might not be necessary (or recommended). Instead, a Masters program might serve your career advancement just as sufficiently. Although most Masters degrees fall into the category of Master of Arts, Master of Science, or Master of Business Administration, many other degrees exist as well, including – but not limited to! – degrees in law, teaching and social work.

For some careers, specialized, high-level graduate degrees are a must have. Two examples are academia and medicine. If you want to be a professor in the United States, you must obtain a Ph.D. regardless of how skilled you are in your field. If you want to be a medical doctor, you must attend four years of medical school and then complete a residency program. So, if you have realized your passion is for a specific position that requires a specific degree, go get that degree!

Full-time or part-time grad school options

As I’ve said, grad school is expensive. Not only are the fees expensive, but you must factor in the lost years of earnings while you are obtaining your advanced degree. Covering the expenses of grad school often requires taking out a student loan. Some are fortunate enough to have parents who are willing to cover some or all the expenses. Bear in mind that if you are a professional who is used to earning a paycheck, the idea of living on a student’s budget again may not be appealing.

There are a few ways to cut the sting of expense. One way is to keep working while you pursue a degree full time. Many individuals work part time and a few hardy souls hold down full-time jobs, although doing so involves many personal sacrific- es. Another way to cut expenses is to study part time, choose a shorter program (i.e., a Master’s degree instead of a Ph.D.) or opt for a degree that has a distance learning element. There are many degrees offered across the country that are primarily or entirely remote. You may find this helps you balance your academic work with your job, as you can work at your own pace when you have time during the day and evening hours. Also, it reduces your commute time to and from classes to zero!

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