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Graduate School Guide

Like any decision, considering whether or not to attend graduate school, as well as determining which programs to pursue, should be considered thoughtfully. You will find information on the different types of graduate degrees and resources to assist with this decision-making process.

Choose a Program | Choose Where to Apply | Financial Aid Resources

Program/ Degrees Awarded

Program Description

Master's Degree
M.S., M.A., M.Ed., M.B.A., M.M., M.F.A., M.S.W., etc.

May vary: Course-type programs, Comprehensive exam programs, Thesis-type programs

Advanced Master's & Specialist Degrees
Ed.S., Adv.M.

Students complete course work beyond a Master’s degree, but less extensive than a doctoral program

Professional Degree
J.D., M.D., D.V.M., Pharm.D., D.D.S., D.M.D., etc.

Awarded upon completion of programs/course work that prepare students to enter specific professions

Doctoral Degree
Ph.D., Ed.D., D.M., Psy.D., etc.

Highest degrees awarded. Typically, completion of course work, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation are required

Choose a Program or Graduate School

Start early! Give yourself plenty of time to conduct research and find the right program for you.
1. Identify Programs in Your Field of Interest
Find books, online resources, and mentors/advisors to assist you with your research.
Some examples of online resources include:  www.gradschools.comwww.graduateguide.com,
2. Collect Information on Programs of Interest
Research the institution’s website. Contact departments directly for additional information you may not find online. Utilize any opportunities to speak with students currently in your program of interest
3. Check the Ratings of Your Programs of Interest
Speak with former professors and advisors about what they know about the programs. Reference resources that review/evaluate graduate programs. For example: www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools

Choose Where To Apply - Factors to Consider

While using the above resources to assist with narrowing your options down to a few programs, a site visit is often the only way to truly determine which programs are compatible with your goals. The following questions may be helpful to consider:
1. What is the program culture?
Is it research– or application-focused? Are the faculty members active in their fields? Are students involved in the faculty’s professional endeavors? How do the faculty, students, and staff all interact? The best way to determine this is to conduct a site visit, meet with faculty and students, and observe a class or two.
2. What is the quality of the program?
 Is the program accredited by an appropriate entity? Are faculty published in your area of interest? Are they recognized in their fields? What are the employment rates of the graduates? Where are they employed?
3. Will the program lead to certification or licensure?
 If applicable, will completing the program meet necessary educational requirements for certification or licensure in your field? If a credential is required or preferred in your field of interest, you may want to start by researching the appropriate credentialing body to find programs that meet the requirements.
4. What are the program costs?
 What will the total costs of your program be? Are there financial assistance options available? If you qualified for a G.I. Bill, contact the certifying official at the school, your local Army Education Center, or the VA for more information (http://benefits.va.gov/gibill/). Are there assistantship opportunities, scholarships, grants, fellowships, or other programs that may help you?
5. What other factors are important to you?
Are smaller class sizes important? What about the amount of time it will take to complete the program? Does the program offer experiential learning opportunities? Develop a list of questions for your site visits to ensure you cover the areas you believe will have the greatest impact on your successful completion of the program.

Financial Aid Resources

Research financial aid options early in the process. Many funding organizations have deadlines due in the fall for the following year. Here are examples of types of assistance that may be available:
G.I. Bill: The VA Education Call Center is available at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. CST) or visit http://benefits.va.gov/gibill/ for more information. Make sure you allow adequate time to apply for your education benefits in order to receive the proper documentation for the start of the semester.
Fellowships: Competitive, prestigious awards based on academic achievement. These awards are typically quite substantial and usually do not require the student to work.
Assistantships: Paid, part-time employment that may include a full or partial tuition waiver (often of the out-of-state portion of tuition). Students receiving this type of award often teach, conduct research, or perform similar work. Assistantships are often available via the academic department.
Loans: Low-interest loans are available to most graduate students. Contact the institution’s financial aid for more information.
Grants and Scholarships: These are gifts of money. They may be “free scholarship money” with no obligation for work or repayment, or they may be for a specific purpose.
Call: 1.800.BE.A.GRAD Ext. 1618 OR E-mail:  WPAOG Career Services