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Graduate & Professional School Online Guide

Going to Grad School

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Reasons for Going

“Good” reasons:
        • Your goals make graduate school necessary.
        • You want to specialize within a field.
        • You can get a better job in your field with a graduate degree.

“Not so good” reasons:

• Can’t get a job with a bachelor’s degree because of overcrowding in your field. Keep in mind that many majors that are glutted at the under-graduate level have the same problem at the graduate school level. Check it out; you may not be better off with an advanced degree.
 • Afraid of present labor market difficulties and want to avoid looking for a job. This is a gamble that may or may not pay off.
• Don’t know what you want for a career; maybe graduate school will help you decide. Actually, grad schools expect you to have career goals when you go.
• Don’t know what else to do.
• External reasons. It’s expected from family, professors, others.

What Graduate School is All About

Main differences between graduate and undergraduate school:

  • Many more seminar-type courses, especially at the advanced level.
• More papers, projects, presentations: fewer tests.
• More research-oriented.
• Increased specialization; narrowing of subject matter studied.
• Much more independent work; self-discipline a necessity.
• Less short-term feedback about how you’re doing academically.
• Increased pressure to maintain high grades; generally B or above is expected minimum.
• Increased competition.
• Drug testing may occur in certain doctoral/professional programs.
Master’s Degree (M.A. or M.S.)
Usual requirements/experiences:
  A. Coursework and Thesis: most programs require both coursework and an independent research project which the student designs, carries out, writes, and defends before a committee of graduate professors.
B. Some programs have the option of not requiring a thesis. The student may elect to take a certain amount of extra coursework instead of a practicum experience.
Doctoral Degree (Ph.D./ Ed.D./Psy.D.)
Usual requirements/experiences:
  A. Four to six years of full-time study/research.
B. Some programs require a master’s thesis; others do not.
C. A comprehensive examination covering required coursework which may be oral or written, or both.
D. A dissertation. This is an original, independent research project; the student usually presents the proposed project to a faculty committee for approval and defends the completed project before the same committee. Differs from a thesis in that it must be original and is more complex. Also must be judged to be a significant contribution to knowledge in the student’s field. Publication is expected.
E. If you are in an applied program such as counseling, psychology, nursing, social work, etc., part of the requirements for your program involves supervised experiences such as a practicum, fieldwork, internships, etc.
Law Degree (J.D., LL.M.)
Usual requirements/experiences:
  A. Three-years of full-time study.
B. Can be an intense, competitive environment. Class preparation and review are time consuming, and most students are advised not to hold a part-time job while in school.
C. In most courses, grades will be determined primarily from examinations administered at the end of the semester or, at some schools the end of the year. The professor may give little feedback until the final examination.
D. Basic skills expected of law students include an ability to analyze problems, advocate the views of others, give intelligent counsel, write and speak clearly, and negotiate effectively.
E. To practice law in the United States, lawyers must be admitted to a state-bar. Most states require a law degree from an ABA-approved law school, a passing score on a state bar examination and evidence of fitness to practice law, understanding of legal ethics, and sound character.
Medical Degree (M.D., D.D.M., D.V.M.)
Usual requirements/experiences:
  A. Four years of full time study.
B. A post-graduate residency training (3-4 years) in an approved hospital is considered essential preparation for the practice of medicine and is required for licensure in most states.
C. In addition to medical knowledge and skills, students are expected to possess certain personality traits – analytical skills, attention to detail, compassion, emotional stability, and a responsible attitude.
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