Career Opportunities Count
Although looking up a potential school’s alumni will certainly help you figure out what they’ve gone on to do with their graduate degrees, you should also try to find out how long it takes the average graduate to find stable employment after they’ve completed their master’s program. If there are huge gaps in the employment profiles of alumni on LinkedIn, or if it looks like they’ve had to take a series of low-paying jobs before landing a decent role, start ringing the alarm bells.
If it takes graduates a great deal of time to land their first good jobs, then perhaps the school doesn’t do a good job of preparing them for worthwhile careers. Any strong graduate school, or graduate program worth attending should offer not just a high quality education, but also a variety of opportunities for career success. The graduate schools that you consider should provide assistance with finding quality job placements, paid internships, career workshops and other career-related services. When you explore prospective schools, make sure to ask faculty, advisors, career services personnel and alumni about what they offer in the way of career development both during school and after graduation.
Size Really Does Matter
Many students don’t seem to think that the size of their graduate school matters, but it can actually make or break your entire graduate school experience. If you prefer learning in a lecture hall with many other students, you will likely benefit from attending a graduate school that offers larger classes. However, if you prefer an environment where there is more room for discussion and debate with your professors and peers, then you will probably want to attend a graduate school with a far lower student-to-faculty ratio.
A simple way to decide what kind of a class size you prefer in graduate school is to think about the learning style that worked best for you while you were an undergraduate. Don’t attend a graduate school simply because it has a fantastic reputation, because if it’s learning methods don’t sync up with your learning style, then you may end up feeling disappointed, or falling behind in your studies.
Most graduate school websites list their student-to-faculty ratios, but one of the best ways to get a feel for the size of a school is to visit the campus in person and ask if you can sit in on one of the classes that you might be attending. See for yourself whether or not it’s the right environment by participating in a real-world classroom experience.
How Long Will it Take?
The length of an academic program is one of the most important considerations that you’ll have to take into account, as it will determine how quickly you can start putting your education to work on bringing some money back into your own pockets. If you would prefer to attend a graduate program that can be completed on a part-time basis, then realize you’ll have to extend the program for a few extra years, but consider earning your degree entirely online.
Getting your graduate degree online will typically allow you to study on a more flexible schedule, and at some schools, you’ll be able to proceed through the program at your own pace. As a result, you might be able to extend your education for as long as you want, working on things when you have time, putting them on hold when you don’t, and graduating only when you’re ready to do so.