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Should I Go To Graduate School & When

Attending graduate school immediately after graduation is a big decision. Careful reflection on your reasons for wanting to continue your education will help to ensure a sound decision.  If you have a clear sense of what career you want to pursue, and if an advanced degree is required for entry into that field, then graduate school is for you.

For most college graduates, however, the decision to continue school will not be as clear-cut. Unsure of your career interests, you may regard the campus as a sheltered place in which to "find yourself." While this view is common and acceptable for undergraduates, it can present a real problem at the graduate level where you are expected to have clearly defined interests leading to an area of specialization.

 A convincing argument for gaining work experience related to your interests before entering graduate school can be made.

  • First, related work experience will help you clarify ambiguous career goals. You will find out what it takes to be successful in a given profession, and you can then assess your abilities accordingly; this knowledge should help you decide upon an area of specialization.
  • Second, the perspective, learning, and maturity acquired from practical experience can be applied to the theoretical concepts promoted in your studies and should increase your understanding of them.

Positive Reasons

Listed below are several reasons that students give for pursuing graduate school immediately after graduation. Check to see where your reasoning falls.

  1. You have career goals that make graduate school necessary.
  2. You want to specialize in a particular field, to do research, or to broaden expertise in an area.
  3. You can get a better job or promotion with a graduate degree.
  4. Law, medicine, and college or university teaching, for instance, are areas in which education beyond the baccalaureate level is required.
  5. If you want to immerse yourself in the study of a particular academic discipline purely for the love of it, and would never forgive yourself if you did not at least give it a try, then advanced study will probably turn out to be a satisfying and valuable experience.

Questionable Reasons

  1. You cannot get a job with a B.A./B.S. because of overcrowding in the field.
  2. You want to avoid looking for a job and/or do not know what else to do.
  3. You do not know what you want for a career and you think more school will help you decide. (You are expected to have career goals when you apply to graduate school.)
  4. It is expected after college (by parents or professors).


Deciding to attend graduate school is not a decision to be made hastily or with a limited information base. Making an informed decision about pursuing a graduate degree requires in-depth self-assessment combined with long-term goal setting.

  • Before applying for further study, you need to be aware of the working conditions, employment prospects and physical and mental requirements of the field you plan to pursue.
  • Second, the more immediate demands of the components of a graduate school experience, research, coursework, papers, teaching, etc., must be considered. When giving consideration to these issues, you must look for a match between these demands and your interests, needs, skills and career goals.

Two of the reasons frequently given by students who have withdrawn from graduate programs are a dislike of concentrated academic work and a realization that they had not defined their career goals adequately and clearly. By answering the following questions and assessing your needs, interests, values, skills and goals, you can hopefully avoid similar problems and therefore, make an informed decision about pursuing a graduate degree.

  1. What do I want to accomplish in my lifetime?
  2. What are my long-range and short-range career goals?
  3. Is graduate study necessary for me to achieve these goals?
  4. Do I have the interest and abilities to be successful in a graduate program?
  5. What type of value, if any, do I place on attaining a graduate degree?
  6. Am I mentally and physically prepared to undertake such a long-term academic commitment?
  7. At the present time, do I have other needs that conflict with pursuing a graduate degree?
  8. I have enough information about this career field to determine if I want to make a long term commitment to pursuing a graduate degree?
  9. Can I realistically invest the time and money required to pursue another academic degree?


"Graduate School In Your Plans?" Job Choices: 2001, p. 91.

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