For adults with bachelor degrees, obtaining a graduate degree may be the right step for you. In the ever-changing job market, the thriving employees seem to be those with advanced degrees. Americans with a graduate degree earn an average of 35-50% more than those with a bachelor’s degree. This may be one reason that more students are applying to graduate schools than ever before. Attending graduate school is as difficult as a real job and can often be more demanding and time-consuming. Plus, having a graduate degree does not necessarily guarantee you the career or salary of your choice. So why did over a million US students enter graduate programs last year?
Career Change – Some people decide to make a career change after having been in the work force for some time. You may find that your interests have changed and that additional schooling is required in order to transition into your new chosen career field.
Career/Salary Advancement – The upper level positions in your current field may not be open to individuals with only a bachelor’s degree.
Teaching – You may want to teach a class. A master’s degree is required of community college instructors and increasingly required of high school teachers especially for subjects requiring highly qualified status. To become a professor at a four-year college or university, a doctorate is required.
Professional Licensing – Social workers, therapists, psychologists, and others who directly treat or counsel patients generally need a graduate education to meet state and national licensing requirements.
Life-Long Learning – If you love to learn and have the desire to enhance your knowledge in a particular area of study, that’s a wonderful reason to pursue graduate study!
The Job Market – A slow economy and resulting trouble finding a job is a major reason that many choose to pursue a graduate degree. Keep in mind that many careers rumored to have more opportunities in the near future may not experience any change, so be sure to do your research and speak with people who are currently employed in the field that interests you.
If there is one skill that will benefit you now during your job search and for the rest of your career, it is networking. Networking can be simply defined as developing relationships. The objective of networking is to build a community of contacts that will be available to you when you need something, a group of employer contacts for instance. An article from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) reports that, “60-80 percent of jobs are obtained through networking.” The ultimate goal of networking is to be able to find a resource to satisfy your professional career needs within one or two phone calls.
There is a common misunderstanding that networking involves meeting as many new people as you can or collecting as many numbers and business cards as possible. Not only is this ineffective, but this completely undermines the point of networking. The best way to go about networking is to develop strong relationships. People are more likely to help those who they have good relationships with, especially those who have helped them out in the past. In the working world, a lot of your success comes from who you know.
So, how do you network? As mentioned earlier, networking entails more than shaking as many hands as possible. Careerealism approved expert, Deborah Shane, cites nine tips to becoming a networking expert in a recent article, including pairing up with a mentor, being inclusive, setting goals, targeting your audience and knowing the guest list.
Instead of attempting to meet everyone possible, concentrate on a few individuals and show sincere interest in your conversations. It is important to be authentic. Remember, you should be focusing on developing relationships, not collecting business cards. By actively engaging in conversations, you will show the other party that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Whenever you have the ability to help a contact, offer your help and then make sure to follow through. When the time comes and you need assistance, contacts will be much more willing to offer their support and resources.
In today's world of social networking, there are great tools at your fingertips that will assist you in networking and in keeping in touch with those you meet. Sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter allow users to stay connected and share information with hundreds of people in an instant. These sites are great resources for anyone trying to build a networking community, connect with colleagues and make people aware of events and resources available to the community. Each of the sites has a different atmosphere and users should be aware of the expectations of the site before joining. LinkedIn was created especially for the business community, allowing colleagues to connect and businesses to share information. LinkedIn acts almost like an online resume for users, allowing members to search for people based on work experience and business interests. Facebook and Twitter have a more social aspect to them; they were created to allow anyone from any community to connect with friends, family, and colleagues. The sites are used for a range of things from sharing personal thoughts and information to creating groups and pages to connect people around a cause, business, brand, or interest. Millions of people connect on these sites everyday; don't miss your opportunity to build a great networking community.
Chambers of commerce offer professional development opportunities and networking events throughout the year. Visit 2chambers.com for access to a directory of state and local chambers of commerce websites.
New Hampshire has several young professional associations. These associations provide professional and personal development opportunities for young workers. Recent grads are always welcome to attend special events and network with other like-minded young professionals. Learn more about the professional associations in your area by visiting Stay Work Play – a statewide, independent marketing effort promoting what New Hampshire offers the 20 and 30 year-old demographic.
Currently, Stay Work Play lists website links for 14 young professionals’ networks in New Hampshire:
Another opportunity for young professionals in New Hampshire is the Granite United Way’s Emerging Leaders Society (ELS). This group is specifically designed for up-and-coming leaders of the community, ages 40 and under, and it provides a variety of social networking, volunteer, and professional development opportunities.
Finding a summer job may be tough in the current economy, so why not think out-of-the-box about how you can gain some work experience, learn some new skills, and identify a possible career path? Internships and volunteering are great ways to gain experience that will help you market yourself in your college admissions process.
An internship is a short-term work-related learning experience that will help you develop hands-on work experience in a certain occupational field. This is an excellent way to not only gain practical work experience, but to determine if an industry and profession is something you might like to pursue. Internships are not usually paid, and may be part-time or full-time.
Another opportunity for the summer may be volunteering. A little less structured than an internship, volunteering is working for a particular cause without payment for your time and service. This might be helping out at your animal rescue shelter, preparing food at a food pantry or soup kitchen, or reading to the elderly at a nursing home. Volunteering illustrates your involvement in your community and also offers you a great way of seeing different careers and environments. Whether you are interested in computer programming, graphic design, counseling or animal services, you can find a volunteer opportunity available for you at volunteernh.org/html/home.htm/.
Another great benefit of both internships and volunteering is networking. The opportunity to meet with various people is a wonderful way to build your network of people who may assist you as you not only apply for college, but look for employment opportunities down the road. When looking for an internship or volunteer opportunity, it is important to use all of your resources. Ask school counselors, teachers, family members, coaches and friends if they know of anything available. Whatever your goal, maximize your summer vacation time and make it work for you!
AmeriCorps is a National Service program that provides citizens with the opportunity to make a big difference in your life and the lives of others by applying skills and ideals toward helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.
Each year, AmeriCorps offers 75,000 opportunities for citizens of all ages and backgrounds to serve through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups. Whether your service makes a community safer, gives a child a second chance, or helps protect the environment, you’ll be getting things done through AmeriCorps!
AmeriCorps members address critical needs in communities all across America. As an AmeriCorps member, you can:
As an AmeriCorps member, you’ll gain new skills and experiences – and you’ll also find the tremendous satisfaction that comes from helping others. In addition, full-time members who complete their service earn a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. The amount of a full-time education award is equivalent to the maximum value of the Pell Grant for the award year in which the term of national service is approved. After completing your service you can use this award to pay for college, graduate school, or to pay back qualified student loans. Members who serve part-time receive a partial award. Some AmeriCorps members may also receive a modest living allowance during their term of service.
There are thousands of opportunities to serve in AmeriCorps. Each one provides an incredible opportunity to make a difference in your life and in the lives of those around you. To search for an AmeriCorps national service opportunity that fits your interests and desired location, click here. Applications for any position can also be submitted online – all you have to do is create a user profile.
Resources to learn more about AmeriCorps:
Once upon a time, people finished education early because most of life’s learning came “on the job”. On the job training is still important, but today there is a need for more sophisticated academic learning just to get an opportunity to learn on the job. As technology becomes more advanced and as the interrelation of bodies of knowledge becomes more complex, individuals must be able to use their training in as many ways as possible. It is imperative to be adaptable.
It has been said that the average person will have several careers during his/her adult life. However you define a career, whether as a series of related positions or an entirely new direction, you can expect a lot of change. There is no question that we have to be more mobile than ever before. Few of us live in the same town or same state that we grew up in. Even if we do live close to our roots, change takes place around us and we have to be prepared to move with it. Being able to take advantage of the best opportunity means being ready to move to a new setting with confidence and ambition. Graduate school is a vehicle to greater mobility.
Specialization is power. In addition to possessing 21st century skills, the student with specialized knowledge or training will automatically be more valuable in the workplace. Specialization allows a student to build a niché that will be valued and utilized by others in the organization.
Graduate school puts you in the position to gain more skills. No matter what your initial degree or training program, graduate school allows you to build skills that transcend those you acquired in a more basic setting. In building skills, you set yourself apart and will bring training and ability to the workplace that will be immediately valued at a higher level and will allow you to become productive sooner by applying new learning.
Your investment of time and money in graduate school not only generates knowledge and money, it proves something about you. You have applied your time and talent, and have invested money and personal resources. In doing so, you display motivation and ambition that will be important characteristics as people decide whether or not to hire you. Your work in graduate school will display your willingness to challenge yourself, to develop and to take risks to earn success. Those are important qualities in any potential employee.
As a potential graduate student, it is important to choose your program carefully as there are many options and many considerations; for example, you can choose whether to go part-time or full-time, or whether to limit your search by location or cost. You should ask yourself the questions below to help you determine the best course of action.
What is my timeframe?
One of the first questions the prospective graduate student has to ask is: “how much time do I have to devote to this endeavor?” You may be able to attend full-time, or you may need to go part-time in order to earn money or to meet other commitments. Determining your timeframe can help to sort out many aspects of how you will pursue your graduate degree. Any certificate program beyond the basic, introductory program can take up to one year, full-time. A master’s degree will usually take two years depending on the field and writing requirements. A PhD can take three years or more depending on the dissertation. A full-time law student will attend three years of law school, while a part-time student can obtain a degree in four or more years.
Does my present circumstance provide a secure foundation for pursuing a graduate degree?
Some individuals wait for the “perfect” time to return to school. Sometimes the “perfect” time never comes. You’ll always be balancing obligations, but it is important to position yourself for a successful experience. School location, support of family, availability for travel, study time, and work commitments are incredibly important considerations. These issues challenge you to explore the balance between your life circumstances, funding options, time, and money as you go forward with your plans to find the best graduate school possible for you. It is important to note that there are hundreds of fine programs. Often, what makes a program “best” is how it works for you.
Do I just want the credentials?
You might think that you need the credential of a graduate degree to get a job. That’s a fair reason for going to graduate school. There are many professions that demand certain academic program attainments. Be sure that you know what kind of privileges your particular program’s credentials will afford you. And, if your job requires certification, stay up to date on acceptable courses.
In your chosen field, does having an advanced degree set you apart when it comes time for an employer to decide who is most qualified for more opportunity, responsibility, and compensation? In some settings, salary and promotion are directly related to advanced training. If the above is true for your chosen field, then a graduate degree is a significant investment in your own future. If not, there are other ways to enhance your professionalism.
Will other people be impacted by my choice?
Others may well be impacted by your choice. Whether it is leaving professional colleagues or family members, others may have concerns as you pursue your degree. You need to determine ahead of time if that will have any detrimental effect or be a significant component as you choose your program. During challenging times, encouragement and support from others may be crucial.
Graduate school standardized tests are designed to test general knowledge, reasoning skills, and ability to communicate. Some exams will often also ask for specialized knowledge pertaining to a field. An exam’s score can be a crucial component in the evaluation of an application. Testing is not the be-all and end-all of admission, but it can be a more important consideration at the graduate level than it was for undergraduate admissions.
GRE Graduate Record Examination
GMAT Graduate Management Admission Test
LSAT Law School Admission Test
MCAT Medical College Admission Test
What is the Personal Statement?
The Personal Statement is the graduate school version of an undergraduate college admission essay. Almost all graduate applications have a required Statement in some form. While your grades and test scores are very important, the Statement provides the admission committee a chance to personally distinguish you from other applicants and the opportunity to see you as a person instead of as a number and a statistic. All things being equal, your Statement may be the deciding factor in whether you are accepted or denied admission as it reveals a great deal about your ability to write and communicate a unique perspective in an engaging way. And, it is one aspect you still have influence over at this stage in the process. The personal statement varies by institution. It can either be general – giving you freedom in terms of what you write – or it can ask specific questions. Some business school applications favor multiple essays, typically asking for responses to three or more questions, while medical or law school applications often ask you to address your motivation or qualifications in more general terms.
Content. The majority of schools will ask you to explain why you want to study in the program, how you became interested, and how your previous academic work has prepared you for your graduate studies.
Writing. As you write your Statement, remember that how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate. When we read a book, we can hear the author’s “voice.” The same should be true in your statement. The reader expects a polished piece of writing in your unique voice. Write a preliminary outline, make a first draft, redraft, edit your drafts, and have someone else review your writing. Continue to revise until you have a version you are proud to submit.
Attitude. Attitude is revealed through the combination of content, writing, and style. The Statement ultimately shows your passion for your studies, confidence in your ability to succeed, and pride in your accomplishments. Your style will help demonstrate that you will be a valuable and productive student in a particular program.
How Do I Write a Personal Statement?
How you structure and organize your essay can determine your fate. With a well-structured essay, the reader will not only be interested in the content of your essay, but will also know you have the capacity to create a legible essay – and thereby think clearly and logically. There are several different ways you can structure your essay but the most common format includes an introduction, several body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. Write about who you are, why you want to continue your studies, what experiences support your application, and your previous academic record. Make sure you answer the required question(s). Your paragraphs need to have transitions and resolutions. Transitions start a paragraph by providing a statement that suggests the theme for that paragraph. This allows the reader to be aware of the direction the essay is heading in. Transitions connect paragraphs to other paragraphs (usually preceding paragraphs), which causes the essay to flow smoothly. Resolutions, on the other hand, are statements that end paragraphs and allow for transition to the next paragraph. The resolution should not be a general statement but rather a meaningful one that connects facts included in the current paragraph. Both transitions and resolutions are beneficial in terms of making your essay clear and understandable.