What to Consider When Considering Graduate School

By John Stran

When four years or so is up and an undergraduate degree is finished, a decision must be made. Is it time to enter the job market, go to graduate school and pursue a master’s degree or even a combination of the two?   

Students choosing a path involving graduate school must take the time to weigh the effects of their decision.

Erik Engartner, senior touring and event manager major at Youngstown State University, recently received an acceptance letter from graduate admissions at The Ohio State University where he will study city and regional planning.

Engartner, who created his major at YSU, described it as a combination of geography, hospitality management and business administration. This led to some difficulties when searching for jobs.  

“I had a hard time finding jobs with my unique undergraduate degree, and I wanted to pivot to a different field of study,” he said. “Graduate school provides me with the opportunity to advance my education, which should hopefully result in better job prospects and open more doors than just having a bachelor’s degree.”

Engartner was pushed toward graduate school because there is a lack of jobs pertaining to his undergraduate degree, but this is not the only reason a student decides to pursue graduate school.

He decided to start his graduate program next fall because he felt there was no point in waiting when job opportunities were currently scarce for him.  

Bridgid Cassin is a graduate assistant in her final semester in the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. In Cassin’s opinion, the main reason someone should consider any graduate program is a passion for knowledge.

“It’s important to be genuinely interested and engaged in your education, or you will struggle with longer classes and more difficult coursework than most undergraduate degrees require,” she said.

Cassin said if a student plans on going to a more expensive school, choosing to take time off school and getting a job between the undergraduate and graduate level may help pay off undergraduate school debt and begin to earn savings.

Ashley Leonelli, coordinator of graduate admissions at YSU, said some programs may require a few years of work experience in order to be admitted, whereas some can be started right after your undergraduate degree.

In terms of who should attend graduate school, Leonelli said there are not any majors who should avoid it; each person should just make sure to pursue a program they would be invested in.  

Photo by Tyler Rothbauer/The Jambar

But if every student pursues a master’s degree or something equivalent to it, does that make them any less useful in putting someone ahead in the job market?

“The workforce is only getting more and more competitive,” Leonelli said. “I don’t know that a master’s degree is the new bachelor’s degree, but what I do know is it will set you apart from those fellow individuals you are competing for a job against.”

For those who are starting the grad school application process, Sal Sanders, dean of graduate studies, has a few words of advice.

He said to be familiar with the requirements for the program of interest and ask for reference letters from those who will reply in a timely manner.

Sanders added students should be aware of deadlines to apply, how often the program accepts students and to submit all required material well in advance of the deadline.

His final bit of advice is to ask about scholarship or assistantship opportunities and how to apply for them and if you have or are currently serving in the military, ask about any benefits that may be available.

Students interested in graduate programs at YSU can contact the College of Graduate Studies at [email protected].