A graduate degree could mean the difference between getting that plum promotion and not. While taking classes at night, on the weekends or online is challenging, there are significant benefits to obtaining a graduate degree.

Many students pursue a graduate degree immediately following graduation from an undergraduate school. For instance, most students attend law school or medical schools following graduation with a bachelor’s degree. For other students, work experience is what is needed. Many students decide to work a year or two before contemplating a graduate degree. Business and engineering schools would prefer candidates for admission to have real world work experience in the field they choose to study.

A smaller, but growing, group decide to apply to graduate school after many years of work experience. These students are perhaps more emotionally ready for graduate school than their 20-something counterparts.

If you are considering graduate school, do your research. Ask yourself why you want to do the degree. Consult with colleagues in your job field to determine if having a graduate degree will help your career choices. If you are making a career change, a graduate degree may be what you need to gain entry to your chosen second career.

The graduate degree may be the best decision you ever made. Consider carefully why you are pursuing a graduate degree. Not everyone is cut out for a graduate degree. If college was a struggle, consider your decision to apply to graduate school carefully. Graduate degrees are expensive, and many employers will not give you tuition reimbursement.

An option for candidates who may not be educationally suited to the rigors of graduate school is obtaining a certificate in an area of expertise in your field. Certificate programs are frequently offered through local colleges and universities. Generally, certificates are awarded after several weeks or months or even years of study. Per Wikipedia, continuing education certificates use the CEU or continuing education unit credits as a measure of achievement. CEUs are not equivalent to nor can they be used as a replacement for graduate or undergraduate credits..

Finding a Graduate Program

Do a web search for graduate programs in your field. If you are pursuing a second career, find out what graduate degree or certificates are required.

Location is a key factor. is the graduate school near your home or office? If you need to commute to the school, will you have time to get to class after work. Look at rush hour traffic patterns and ground transportation schedules.

If commuting to a graduate program at night will not work, look at weekend graduate programs. These weekend programs offer students the chance to immerse themselves in their field for several weekends a month. Check your work schedule carefully. If you work weekends or travel, a weekend program may not be the best option.

For those who need a more flexible schedule, online programs are the best answer. Through an online degree program, students do classes online in the comfort of their homes, offices, or while on the road. Each student is assigned a graduate counselor or advisor. The students works with the advisor to keep on track with each class and with the program as a whole.

If your schedule is busy with little time for anything else but work and family, going to graduate school may not be the right choice for you. Graduate schools require a high degree of commitment from students. Failing grades or grades lower than a B will not count toward graduation.

Is The Graduate Program Right for You?

Look carefully at the paper brochure and the online curriculum posted on the school website. Ask the following questions as you peruse the resources:

  • Is it the right program for you?
  • Is the faculty highly educated and well regarded in your industry?
  • What are the course requirements?
  • How many classes will you need to take?
  • Do you need to do a paid or unpaid internship as part of the program?

You might want to ask yourself if the degree program at the school you have chosen is valued by employers. There are certain online or bricks-and-mortar schools that are regarded as “diploma mills.” At schools such as these large numbers of students are accepted for graduate and undergraduate programs, where the instructions is not up-to-par with other colleges and universities. Check for accreditation for each school you apply to.

Applying to Graduate School

Once you have decided to go to graduate school, you will need to apply to the schools of your choice. Pick one school you want to attend, in other words, your first choice. As a safety measure, choose and apply to several schools that you would attend if you don’t get your first choice.