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Career Services

Graduate School: Goal Setting

What are your motivations for attending graduate or professional school? Be honest with yourself. Do not go to graduate school out of fear of having no other options. Choose to continue your education because you are working toward a goal, not looking for an easy way out.

Graduate school will probably turn out to be a satisfying and valuable experience if …

  • You have a clear sense of the career you want to pursue, and if an advanced degree is the ticket to entry into that field. College and university teaching and research, law, medicine, and dentistry are just a few areas in which education beyond the baccalaureate level is required.
  • 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. Remember, you will be spending several years studying and doing research and work in that academic field.

The following are not ideal reasons for pursuing an advanced degree:

  • You haven’t decided what kind of career you want to pursue and regard the campus as a sheltered place to “find yourself.” This view can present a real problem at the graduate level where students are expected to have clearly defined interests leading to an area of specialization.
  • You’re getting pressure from your friends, parents, or professors. Your interests and motivation in attending graduate school are what’s really important.
  • You’re doing it simply to postpone the inevitable job search. Remember, a graduate degree is not a guarantee of a job.
  • You think there’s nothing you can do “with a major in…” Regardless of your major, keep in mind that your undergraduate education has equipped you with many skills that are highly valued in the workplace such as research and analysis, critical thinking, and written and interpersonal communication.

In deciding whether to pursue an advanced degree, you may wish to carefully consider some important questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish in my lifetime?
  • What are my long-term and short-term professional and personal goals?
  • Is graduate school necessary for me to achieve these goals?
  • Will the graduate degree enhance or narrow my employment prospects?
  • Do I need to attend right away?
  • Will I benefit more by gaining some practical experience before pursuing a graduate degree?
  • Do I have the interest and ability to succeed in a graduate program?
  • By going to graduate school, am I simply delaying my career planning and decision making?
  • Will the amount of time and money spent on a program ultimately translate into greater career mobility and financial possibilities?
  • Am I willing to meet the extensive research, coursework, and major paper demands of another academic program?
  • Would continuing education alternatives, such as extension programs, vocational school, community college courses, professional seminars, and workshops, assist in achieving my goals?
  • Am I burned out academically or anxious to continue with academic work?
  • Do I want to go full-time?
  • Will a master’s be enough or will I need a doctorate?