Exploring Graduate & Professional School

Are you considering attending graduate or professional school? Now is a great time to explore your options! Being aware of the requirements for various programs and considering your own career interests will help you decide how/when to prepare and apply.

Deciding to go to graduate or professional school is a very individualized decision, and there are resources and support networks available to help you every step of the way. Some individuals attend graduate or professional school shortly after completing their undergraduate degree and some choose to apply later on. Students - and alumni - can connect with a Career Counselor to discuss thoughts, questions, and ideas regarding attending graduate or professional school. The Career Center is here to assist you through every stage of this process - from Exploring to Researching, Applying, Writing a Personal Statement and Diversity Statement, and Deciding which program to ultimately attend!

Breaking down Graduate and Professional School Programs:

Expand all

Graduate School

  • Master's degree programs (e.g., M.A., M.S., M.Ed.) are offered in a wide variety of fields including public health, biostatistics, art history, chemical engineering, and industrial organizational psychology to name but a few. Programs can be either research focused or applied/practitioner focused. 
  • The highest degree offered in graduate school is the Doctorate (e.g., Ph.D., Ed.D.). Obtaining a Doctoral degree usually requires the pursuit of original research. It may not be necessary to obtain a Master's degree before entering a Doctoral program.

Professional School

  • Professional programs focus directly on training for a specific career such as physician assistant, physician, dentist, physical therapist, or pharmacist to name a few. These programs focus on acquiring knowledge of the practices and standards leading to licensure in that particular field.
  • Check out program websites in your area of interest to learn more about prerequisites, selection criteria, the application process, and more!

Considering your own career interests:

Expand all

Questions to ask yourself

  • Is further education necessary, or preferable, in attaining a career objective?
  • Will an advanced degree create additional career opportunities?
  • Do learning, researching, or being in an academic setting provide personal satisfaction?
  • Would gaining some experience outside of the school environment (i.e. work, volunteer, travel, Peace Corps) help you to clarify what you would like to study, prior to applying to graduate or professional school? 
  • Would some specific outside experiences help you to be better prepared, or a more qualified applicant for, graduate or professional school? Ex: For medical fields, do you need more clinical skills, patient interaction experience, shadowing, etc.?

Additional suggestions/ideas

  • Explore the career areas and employment outlook related to the advanced degree you are considering.
  • Connect with professionals currently working in the intended career area to learn more about the field. Seek out information on LinkedIn or other websites, and conduct career conversations.
  • Discuss your plans with academic advisors, professors, and career counselors to get their input or advice.
  • Explore entrance requirements (ex: prerequisite coursework, clinical or shadowing requirements, etc.) for the program(s) of interest and think about what you are doing, or can do, to meet those requirements.
  • Seek out volunteer, internship, work, research, shadowing, or other experience related to career path(s) of interest and to grow your connections with folks already in the career field.
  • Consider connecting with and visiting schools and programs. Come up with a list of questions that will help guide you in your decision making. See more suggestions under Researching Programs and Schools.