Another Option for English Majors: Graduate School

After college there is always the option of furthering one’s education by going to graduate school to receive a master’s degree. Here are a few helpful facts to make things go more smoothly and also answer questions one might have.

WHY GO TO GRAD SCHOOL?

According to recent surveys, Americans with a graduate degree earn an average of 35 to 50 percent more than do those with just a bachelor's degree. That's certainly one reason there are more people than ever in the United States applying to grad school.

When deciding to go to grad school or not, you should realistically assess what you expect it to do for you, and exactly what program will suit you best.

IT'S TOUGH BUT . . .

Grad school is as hard as a "real" job—and is often much more demanding and time-consuming—and the degree doesn't necessarily guarantee you the career of your dreams. So why did over a million people enter U.S. grad programs last year? Well, there are still compelling reasons to get a graduate degree:

CAREER CHANGE

Many people make the decision to return to grad school after working in "the real world" for a while. Some feel that their career options are otherwise limited. Others find that their interests and abilities have developed over the years and no longer have anything to do with their undergraduate education. A graduate degree is necessary training for the new field.

CAREER OR SALARY ADVANCEMENT

The upper levels of your field may be closed to people with only a bachelor's degree, no matter how talented or industrious you are.

SWITCH FROM PRACTITIONER TO ADMINISTRATOR

After working in the trenches for a while, and developing a strong sense of how an organization, school, clinic, or department could be better run, you may be interested in moving up to the management level of your field. This often requires some graduate education.

THE LURE OF IVY WALLS

To teach at two-year colleges you'll need at least a master's degree and maybe a doctorate or a professional degree. To teach or do research at four-year colleges, universities, and graduate programs, you'll need a doctorate and/or the "terminal" professional degree in the field—i.e. M.B.A., J.D., M.D., etc.

PROFESSIONAL LICENSING

Social workers, psychologists, therapists, and others who directly treat or counsel generally need graduate education to meet national and state licensing requirements. The proper licensing and credentials are also essential not only for employment reasons, but also for getting insurance reimbursement. Many insurance carriers authorize payment only to practitioners who meet certain educational and licensing standards.

BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT

Lots of people choose grad school simply because they love the field, and they don't really care about the job prospects. This is especially true of Ph.D.s in the arts or humanities and some of the social sciences. Other social science Ph.D.s and those in many of the sciences generally face a better job market, and some areas—notably computer sciences—are enjoying a real boom time these days.

BECAUSE THE JOB MARKET IS LOUSY

A slow economy is a popular reason for going right from college to grad school. The reasoning is: "Since I'm not going to get a job anyway, I might as well go to grad school. Maybe the job market will be better when I get out." This may not be the best idea. Some areas that have been often rumored to be ready for better employment prospects—college teaching, for instance—may not experience any significant change for the better any time soon. Bottom line: add a realistic appraisal of career prospects to your idealism and career hopes when you're making grad school plans.

HOW LONG?

The customary first graduate degrees in the Liberal Arts and sciences are the Masters of Arts and the Masters of Science degrees, which take one to two academic years of full–time study to complete. The M.A., in one of the Liberal Arts fields, generally requires a thesis as part of its degree completion whereas the M.S.—a degree in one of the sciences—requires a project.

WHAT TESTS TO TAKE

The GRE General Test is primarily a multiple-choice test that most graduate schools use for admission into their graduate programs. Taking this test can be a time of great stress and anxiety for students, but because most of the questions are in a multiple-choice format, you can study for this test and learn some of the "tricks of the trade" that have been developed by educators who have helped thousands of students prepare for this exam, and others similar to it.

TIMELINE FOR ADMISSION

This is to get through the application process comfortably. Fifteen to eighteen months before you plan to enter graduate school you should begin your preparations.

 

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