Explore: Is Graduate School right for you?
Graduate and professional schools offer an opportunity for you to undertake advanced study in areas of interest and/or to accomplish a career goal. There are some professions that require an advanced degree such as law, medicine, and postsecondary teaching. However, if you are uncertain as to your career goal, careful thought and consideration should be given before applying to a program. Making an informed decision about pursuing a graduate or professional degree requires an in-depth self-analysis, research of schools, and development of a plan. It is recommended that the planning and preparation begin approximately 18 months before expected entrance. This would include the self-analysis, the research of graduate programs, and a plan of action.
Why Go To Graduate or Professional School?
There are many reasons why an individual will decide to attend graduate or professional school. This personal decision may include reasons such as:
- Requirement for entry into the field (e.g. law, medicine, speech therapy)
- Professional growth
- Career change
- Personal growth, fulfillment
- Increase in income
- Postponement of career decision or job search
- The job market
Your decision should be based on your own personal situation and long-term goals. A decision should not be made in haste. Careful reflection on your reasons for pursuing an advanced degree will help to ensure a sound decision.
Factors to Consider
The process of deciding whether and when to pursue an advanced degree involves conducting a personal evaluation. It is imperative that you conduct an honest assessment of factors that can and will influence your decision. These factors may include, but are not limited to:
- Career path
- Others who will be affected by your decision (such as family, significant other)
- Support system (such as family, friends, mentor)
A personal assessment will help in clarifying your career goals and directing you to a graduate program that will be a good match. In addition, your self-assessment will be valuable during the application process, in particular when writing your personal statement and in the event a personal interview is part of the application process.
Thoroughly researching graduate schools will significantly enhance one's ability to make a good decision, and help to prioritize which schools match an individual's educational and career goals. Make a list of criteria that are important to your decision. Although no absolute criteria are available for judging graduate or professional schools, the following may serve as a checklist of criteria to consider:
- school offers degrees in your area of interest
- strength and reputation of the academic program
- geographic location
- meets your goal
- required entrance exams
- demographic makeup of campus population
- cost of tuition, books, relocation, housing
- financial aid availability
- application deadline
- number of applicants vs. number accepted
- faculty to student ratio
- your undergraduate preparation
- size of institution
- accreditation of program
- school and program's overall reputation
- campus culture
- length of time to complete program
- placement record of program's graduates
- completion rate
Researching graduate schools and their program offerings is a "mouse click" away. Many schools have web sites and virtual tours that can introduce you to their school and programs. If you have some schools in mind and do not know their web site, do an internet search by going to any search engine (Yahoo, Google, etc.) and typing in the school name. This should connect you to the school's web site. Other web sites for researching graduate schools are:
- Peterson's Graduate and Professional Schools - www.petersons.com
- Grad Schools (portal) - www.gradschools.com
- Grad Guide (portal) - www.graduateguide.com
- Graduate and Professional School Profiles - www.gradprofiles.com
- Council of Graduate Schools - www.cgsnet.org
- Association for Support of Graduate Students - www.asgs.org
- National Association of Graduate-Professional Students - www.nagps.org
- U.S. News & World Report Rankings & Guides - www.usnews.com/rankings
Faculty from your college, alma mater, or local institutions can be another excellent source of information. Discuss your interest with them and ask them to suggest potential graduate school programs that match your goals. Additional sources to consider are currently enrolled graduate students. Con-duct information interviews with students, asking pointed
questions regarding the campus environment, accessibility of faculty, diversity within the program, employment opportunities, and other questions that will factor into your decision. An annual (usually fall semester) Graduate and Professional Schools Fair, co-sponsored by CSULB Educational Equity Services and Kaplan, is held on the campus of CSULB. This is a great opportunity to meet and speak with graduate and professional school representatives.
The Career Development Center's Career Resource Library (located in Brotman Hall 250) houses graduate and professional school information in the Peterson's Graduate Programs directories. Also, the Center offers online programs, such as EUREKA and Choices, which can assist in the identification and research of several hundred graduate programs.
After gathering information, it is best to narrow your selection to four or five potential schools. Your visit to the school(s) is a very important part of the process. There are often factors that you can only accurately assess by visiting each school in person. If you are unable to visit all the institutions you are considering, prioritize your top two or three and visit only those schools.
Selecting a Program
There are generally two types of graduate school degrees awarded: masters and doctorates. Professional schools commonly award advanced degrees in law, health and the medical field. The timelines in completing degree programs vary. The degree sought, number of classes taken in a semester or quarter, required fieldwork experience, whether a comprehensive exam, thesis or dissertation is chosen, and residency requirements will all influence the length of time for completing a degree program.
Graduate Studies at CSULB
California State University, Long Beach offers a wide variety of graduate degrees geared to both full-time and part-time students. For more updated information please visit Graduate Studies at CSULB website.
About 6,000 students are typically enrolled in graduate programs in more than 65 fields. We also offer the following doctoral programs.