Getting Started on Researching Graduate School Programs

“All human wisdom is summed up in these two words — ‘Wait and hope.’” -Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

So you’ve decided to start thinking about graduate school. You have an idea of what you want to study, and now you are ready to explore further. Let’s take a look at a few methods for finding programs of interest so that you can spend less time searching and more time reflecting on the best choice.

Starting with UGA
If you are truly at square one, your current school can serve as a foundation for comparing programs. See if UGA has a graduate or professional program in your field. You may also investigate Double Dawgs programs to see a few possible Master’s degrees that can combine with your Bachelor’s in an accelerated timeline. If interested, you can consult with an academic advisor about creating a plan of study for those programs. Consider running your questions by a faculty member or current student in your chosen program. Find out if UGA has not only one, but several specific degrees/programs that connect to your interest. What department houses your prospective program? What is the level of the degree? Does it provide options for an area of emphasis or certificate? What are the admissions requirements, and who are the best contacts for more information? Finding the answers to these questions will provide you a method for researching similar programs at other institutions. Start by finding a listing of graduate programs at the other institution, then narrow down to the department and degree. Individual program websites are your first source for gathering specific information about the degree.

Finding Programs by Accreditation
As you read information about your program of interest, at UGA or otherwise, be on the lookout for accreditation information. Selecting a properly accredited program benefits your credibility with employers and state licensing agencies (if needed). If you notice the same accrediting organization mentioned by a few different schools, search for more information on that organization. Some accrediting organizations provide a directory of accredited schools, giving you a vetted list for additional program comparison. For example, UGA’s Clinical Psychology program is accredited by the American Psychological Association and the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System. Once you search the pages for these accrediting organizations, you can find a national directory of accredited programs with links to individual department websites.

Finding Programs by Professional Organizations
Let’s say that UGA does not have the program that interests you, so you want to start with the directory of programs by another method. Perhaps you have identified a professional organization associated with your field by talking to a career consultant, faculty member, student organization, classmate, or social media. If you are an aspiring Audiologist, for example, you may come across the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). This professional, scientific, and credentialing association provides ASHA EdFind to help you locate information on programs in this field. I would recommend checking if professional organizations in your field provide a search method or commentary on graduate education in their discipline.

Comparing Programs
Some information sources provide rankings of graduate programs. U.S. News and World Report provides program and specialty rankings for a variety of disciplines. The Vault, accessible through the Online Resources provided by the UGA Career Center, provides rankings for business and law schools. Rankings can be a valuable tool for summarizing general differences between programs in the same discipline. U.S. News and World Report will also provide rankings for online graduate programs. If you are considering online graduate school, you can also start with USG’s Georgia On My Line to search for in-state programs.

As you research a program, consider what other factors are important to you. For me, a convenient geographic location and accessible financing options are my top priority. Another person may care more about opportunities to conduct research and the individual faculty members associated with the program. Review the content on the UGA Career Center’s Selecting a School/Program page for further consideration of these factors. The Career Guide also contains graduate school guidance, and it can get you started on informational interviews. Conducting this type of interview with professionals in your field, faculty members, and graduate students can help answer many questions that are more difficult to find in directories or individual program websites.

Lastly, consider discussing these ideas with your career consultant or attending our Graduate School Information Day in the fall semester. We look forward to helping you further with your graduate school search!

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

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