How Do I Choose an Advanced Degree That Is Right for Me?

When I put this query to Google, I found just over 29,000,000 results. I decided that narrowing the field would be very wise, so I eliminated any addresses that looked like ads for a particular school or program.

Choose an Advanced DegreeOne of the general hits that seemed relevant was an article at eHow.com. This site had tips like: do the research, connect with people (e.g., a faculty advisor in the department you are considering, friends who may have attended this institution, faculty from the school where you earned your bachelor’s, the alumni association for contacts near you, anyone you can think of that might have an opinion), consider how you will finance your education, and – this is the one where I was stuck – choose a program that fits your needs. That is all excellent advice, but how do you know which program best fits your needs?

I found what I considered easy to navigate and helpful information at http://www.gradschools.com/. Here is an article linked to gradschools.com that looks at the Occupational Outlook Handbook to see the fastest growing need for advanced degrees through 2016 (note that it was released in 2008). And here is an article that talks about the general curriculum for several degrees.

Here is a site that asks questions, then links to different articles or institutions to answer them.

From my research, I learned:

  • Choose a program you are passionate about. You will be spending a lot of your time with that topic, so make sure you can stay excited.
  • Choose an institution/program that nurtures graduate students. Just like in undergraduate studies, different institutions have different emphases. Some are student-focused, some are research-focused, and some recruit the big names in the field but have a high percentage of junior professors actually teaching the courses and advising students. Find the right combination for you.
  • Think realistically about your financial situation. How long will it take you to earn back the money you spend on the degree? Be sure to check with your current employer about educational benefits.
  • Consider your support network. Who’s going to encourage you through the 15th revision of your dissertation?
  • Do research! After all, graduate schools, or at least most programs, are all about becoming a researcher and/or understanding research, so start now.

Good luck with your search. Remember: it is estimated that only between 8-9% of the U.S. population has an advanced degree, with about 1% holding a PhD, so simply looking into an online master’s degree puts you above average!

 

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