8 Steps for Deciding What To Study in Graduate School

8 Steps for Deciding What To Study in Graduate School

Last Updated on December 15, 2023 by Akwaowo Akpan

Selecting a graduate school of study can be difficult. Even if you might have a general notion of the kind of work you want to do, it can still be beneficial to figure out what your objectives are and which programs will best suit your requirements. This article explains graduate school, the reasons behind candidates’ decisions to enroll, and how to choose a course of study.

What is Graduate School?

Candidates who have already completed their bachelor’s degree can enhance their abilities, gain knowledge in a particular field, and/or pursue advanced research, depending on their interests, by enrolling in graduate school. Candidates can obtain master’s, specialist, or doctoral degrees through graduate programs; some of these degrees are terminal degrees, the highest degree that can be obtained in a given field of study.

For qualified applicants, graduate programs in academia and the workforce are offered. Candidates in academic programs usually concentrate on conducting research in their particular field. In contrast, candidates prepare for specific career paths in professional programs by demonstrating the competency and knowledge required to pursue a particular profession.

Certain programs employ a hybrid model that blends the conventional components of professional and academic programs to provide candidates with a variety of study options and post-graduation opportunities.

Why go to Graduate School?

There are various reasons why candidates decide to attend graduate school. Here are a few of those reasons explained:

Academic interest

Many applicants decide to go to graduate school in order to pursue specific areas of study that they would like to pursue further. Even though undergraduate degree programs give students a foundational understanding of their chosen field, many bachelor’s degree holders decide to continue their education and advance their specialization. Candidates can study advanced courses in their field, investigate interdisciplinary approaches, carry out research, and make contributions to their fields in a graduate program.

Skills development

Students in graduate programs frequently have the chance to gain valuable professional skills that they can use in a post-graduate capacity. Graduate students frequently take on fellowships, internships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and graduate assistantships in addition to their course of study to gain practical experience in a particular career field. This is particularly true for courses that take a professional approach, like those for law or medicine.

Post-graduate career opportunities

After graduating from graduate school, students frequently have access to more advanced career opportunities because the program allows them to pursue pre-professional roles and academic interests. Although candidates with graduate degrees can find employment in almost any field, certain professions, such as law and medicine, require candidates to have one as a prerequisite for entry. Furthermore, graduate degrees can assist professionals in gaining the competence required to change careers.

Higher earning potential post-graduation

Graduate degree holders may see an increase in pay rates overall when compared to their less educated peers.The national average salary for professionals working full-time with a bachelor’s degree was $56,000 in 2013, while the average salary for professionals working full-time with a master’s degree was $68,000 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The $12,000 gap between these numbers indicates that people with graduate-level degrees may make, on average, 21% more than people with only undergraduate degrees.

How to decide what to study in graduate school

There are various factors to consider when deciding what to study while in graduate school. Taking each of these factors into account, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate your decision:

1. Examine your academic interests

Your academic interests should be the first factor to consider when choosing a graduate program. You have the option to pursue a totally different academic path or carry on with your undergraduate studies. As you decide which schools offer appropriate programs and what career opportunities you’d like to pursue after graduation, you can use your academic interests as a guide.

2. Determine what career opportunities you’d like to pursue

After taking into account your academic interests, consider the post-graduation career opportunities that you find appealing. If you have a specific job in mind for which you would like to use your graduate degree, you might want to look into the kinds of programs that can help you get that job. Knowing why you want to go to graduate school may help you decide what subjects you should take in order to reach your goal.

3. Identify what type of degree you need to jumpstart your career

Determine the kind of degree you’ll need to get started if you already know what kind of career you want to pursue after graduation. Depending on your needs, you can pursue a master’s, specialist, or doctorate degree. Moreover, certain job routes mandate that applicants hold a particular degree. For example, obtaining a Juris Doctor (JD) degree may be necessary to become a lawyer, and earning a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree may be necessary to become a medical doctor. Being aware of these entry requirements will enable you to make more focused decisions.

4. Figure out what type of degree program will help you achieve your goals

Graduate degree programs offer distinct approaches as well as various degree types, as was previously mentioned. Depending on your objectives, you can enroll in a professional program, an academic program, or a program that combines the two. For example, it could be better for you to enroll in an academic Ph.D. program rather than a professional one if your objective is to become a professor and conduct research in your field of interest.

5. Research graduate schools in your area

You can start looking into local school options once you have a better idea of your academic interests, the kind of degree you need to pursue your career choice, and the kind of program that can help you reach your goals.

Determine which schools provide programs that meet your needs by conducting research on them. You can broaden your search to include other regions if you are unable to locate a school in your area that meets all of your requirements.

6. Explore different programs and their courses of study

Once you’ve identified which universities provide graduate-level courses that will fulfill your needs in terms of coursework or employment, thoroughly investigate those courses to see if they’re a good fit for you. You can look up the precise course of study for a program and determine which classes you could enroll in. By doing this, you can find out more about the programs you can attend and exclude ones that don’t really interest you.

7. Find out what faculty members you want to work with

Finding out who the faculty members are at a program can be helpful when investigating the kinds of classes and programs that are offered. You will probably be working closely with a faculty member as a graduate student, and the quality and perspective of your studies can be greatly influenced by the person you choose to collaborate with. Examine the research publications and areas of expertise of various faculty members across programs to determine whose work most closely reflects your interests.

8. Narrow down your research interests

Once you’ve decided on a general field of study, you can think about what your specific research interests are. It’s crucial that you enroll in a graduate program that can support your research objectives because many of these programs require completion of a research dissertation in order for candidates to graduate. You can apply to graduate programs and enroll with the assurance that you’re pursuing the right course of study for you if you have a clearer idea of what you want to research.


  • Akwaowo Akpan

    Hi there, welcome to Online Studying Services. As a fan of authentic information and a student, I devise this means to offer reliable information to international students wishing to either study abroad or online. Thanks for stopping by!

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