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Things to Consider

7 Career Tips for Grad Students

October 2022

With few exceptions, the reason for obtaining a graduate degree is highly career focused. The big four: business, law, STEM (including health care) and education all either encourage or require some form of graduate education to advance and succeed in those fields of study.

Considering there is the possibility of a better career and/or salary awaiting you at the end of the grad school tunnel, it’s advantageous to take the proper steps while in your program to ensure you afford yourself the best opportunities as soon as you graduate.

Consider your career options while you’re in grad school

  1. Make sure you choose the right program. Nothing will waste your time, money and potential career opportunities more than choosing the wrong program. There are numerous concentrations within each field, so it’s important to make sure you know which one is best suited for your professional goals.
  2. Research! The best way to ensure you’re choosing the right program is by starting your search process early. If you’re already working in your field, speak with your boss, peers and human resources department to not only choose the right program, but find out if your company offers tuition reimbursement. Whether you are going to grad school right after undergrad or while already in the workforce, speak with an advisor (both undergrad and graduate), a favorite professor, a boss or co-worker, and/or alumni from the programs you are interested in.
  3. Network. Connect with local businesses in the field you want to work in and ask them about the types of graduate degrees they look for in new hires. Attend career fairs and research any companies that may affiliate themselves with your program.
  4. Gain relevant, real-world experience. Make sure any programs you are considering offer some type of internship, work study or apprenticeship program. This is especially important if you are attending grad school directly after undergrad, and the best way to gain real-world experience while still in school.
  5. Choose a learning environment that will help you maintain life balance. Whether you study part time, full time, on campus, online or a hybrid version of both, you will still receive the same degree. However, the learning environment you choose may determine how successful you are. If you’re working full time and decide to also attend grad school full time and on campus, you may be over committing yourself. This can prevent you from giving the proper attention to either commitment, causing your performance to suffer in both.
  6. Keep an open mind. You may discover career opportunities once you start your program that you hadn’t considered before. It’s important to remain open to any opportunities that come your way; you never know where they may lead.
  7. Choose the right research topic for your intended career objectives. For example, if you are pursuing a master’s or Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and have ambitions to work for a pharmaceutical company, conducting research on how perfume affects one’s senses may not be the ideal project for your career goals. Speak with program faculty and discuss what types of research will be done in the program and whether or not you will be able to have any influence on the type of research you can conduct.

Keep your eye on the prize

From searching for the best program to meet your goals, to participating in a program and receiving your degree, pursuing a graduate degree is no easy task. If you’re going to put this much effort into something, you’ll want to ensure the payoff is worth it and what you want. By considering the suggestions above, your degree will hopefully translate into a rewarding career with future opportunities.

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