April 8, 2011 | Stacy Dymalski | Leave a comment With June rapidly approaching senior college students are getting ready to graduate. For many of these graduates the excitement of finally receiving that coveted degree is outweighed only by having to decide what to do next; get a job or go to graduate school (or both). Granted, the idea of starting a new degree all over again after just spending (at least) the last four years getting the first one may seem daunting, however, some careers can’t begin unless graduate school is in the mix. For example, if you strive to be an attorney, doctor, or college professor then a graduate degree is a must. But even if you decide to go to graduate school just because you want to further explore your area of study (or increase your bankability when you finally do enter the workforce), you still have to decide where to go. Fortunately, there are a multitude of options today ranging from attending an accredited online post-graduate program to enrolling in a brick and mortar college. In any case, the factors you should consider when choosing your graduate school are all the same. Here are four important things to think about when choosing a graduate school that’s right for you. Faculty First and foremost, look at the faculty. Are these professors not only respected in their fields, but also knowledgeable? (The two do not always go hand-in-hand.) You want to study under people who have interesting ideas that coincide with the direction you envision for your career. So to find professors that are a good fit, read all instructor bios AND everything those instructors have published. If possible, schedule an interview with some professors so you can ask specific questions about the graduate program – or at least start an email correspondence. Begin your introductory email by saying, “Hi, my name is [so-and-so] and I’ve read your latest bookâ€¦” (That will definitely get their attention.) However, make sure you’ve really read the person’s book. Nothing kills a new relationship faster than starting it off on a lie. Program Objectives Make sure the graduate program you’re considering focuses on the subject exactly the way you want to study it. For example, some programs concentrate more on theory over application (or vice versa). Is the college department you’re applying to known for any specific areas of expertise or discoveries, and if so do they fit in with what you want to do? Are the professors academic or have they been hired away from the corporate world? Professionals who teach may know a lot about a subject, but at the same time they may be poor teachers. (Something to consider.) Career prospects Most importantly, investigate the hiring rate and success of people who have completed a graduate program from the school in which you’re interested. Remember, in the end you want a long and rewarding career, so if you’re putting in all this extra time and money for further study make sure it pays off. Find out if graduates of your program are trained to do theory or actual research. This information probably isn’t specifically documented so you may have to check an alumni list and see what those people are doing now in the way of careers. If possible contact alumni and ask about their graduate experiences and if those experiences (and the graduate degree itself) helped further their careers. Money Let’s be honest, graduate school is very expensive. However, many graduate programs offer work-study positions that allow you to earn money and go to school at the same time (more so than most undergrad programs). Participating in a work-study program as a graduate student also allows you to start building your resume before you graduate, because in most cases you end up working in your field of expertise. If you need financial assistance while going to graduate school (and who doesn’t these days?), you should definitely consider schools that have robust PAID work-study programs. Unpaid internships don’t count. You can’t pay your rent by showing your landlord how much you’ve learned. Attending graduate school is a big step. With so many options you don’t want to end up at the wrong college, studying in the wrong department. Do your research on graduate schools up front, so you can be sure that the research you do while you’re at graduate school will actually get you where you want to go. Go back to school and get your MBA!