Graduate education refers to formal study after receiving a bachelor’s degree.  It differs from undergraduate study in many ways, but a key difference is that a graduate program is designed to specialize in an academic discipline or profession.  There is less elective course work and students may be expected to conduct and defend independent research, complete internships or fieldwork, and/or sit for comprehensive exams.  In addition, faculty members expect more of graduate students.  For example, attendance and class participation are generally not optional.

It is imperative to research your desired career path before applying to graduate school. If you feel that graduate school is the right decision for you, further research should be focused on selecting the discipline or program that best meets your professional and personal goals.  See “selecting a school/program” for more information.

Before investing the time into applying for graduate school, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is an advanced degree required to enter the particular profession I am interested in?
  • Is an advanced degree required to advance within my field of interest?
  • Do I love the field enough to obtain an advanced degree?
  • Do I have the financial resources to cover the cost of graduate school?
  • Am I burned out academically, and do I need to take time off?
  • Do I want to go to school full-time or part-time?
  • Do I have the personal qualities and skills that are needed to be successful in graduate school?
  • What are the different programs that are available in my area of interest?

Best reasons to attend graduate school:

  • Your career goal requires an advanced degree, such as a professor, lawyer or doctor.
  • You want to specialize in a subject you feel is of great importance to you.
  • You want to advance in your career or change career directions.
  • You want or need to gain a certain level of certification or licensure.

Worst reasons to attend graduate school:

  • You don’t want to get a job.
  • You want to postpone paying student loans.
  • You don’t know what you want to do.
  • You don’t think you can get a job.
  • You really like college and think graduate school is going to be just as fun.

If your reasons for going to graduate school indicate that you need to do more research, consider visiting your career consultant for career counseling.  Schedule an appointment at (706) 542-3375.

Portions of this website were adapted with permission from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville’s Admission Guide for Graduate School.