laptop and stack of books

There are often many factors that go into deciding whether or not to attend graduate school. It’s a big investment in both time and money, and you’ll want to make sure that your graduate studies align with your career goals and interests. With an important decision like this, it’s common for many students to take a few years off between undergraduate and graduate school to decide what will be a good fit. 

If you’re considering graduate school, spend time reflecting on your interests, goals, dreams and capabilities. Evaluate your strengths, talents, competencies and weaknesses. Answering the following questions can help with your decision.

  • In some career fields, graduate school is necessary for a certain job, particularly those that require licensure. Do research on your career field(s) to identify if graduate school is necessary.
  • For some career fields such as law, medicine and health, professional school is necessary. Work with the pre-law or pre-health advising teams for support.
  • Review the “What Can I Do with This Major?” resource to identify if your career ideas require a graduate degree.

Graduate school is an investment of time and money, including unearned income because you are not working, so ensure you have clear motivation and that additional education is necessary. Career Services helps students with common considerations such as:

  • I’m not ready to have a full-time job. 10% of CU Boulder alumni who earn a bachelor’s degree are employed part-time after graduation. It is OK to work part-time after graduation.
  • Everyone goes to graduate school. Consider that between 2013-2019 62% of CU Boulder alumni who earned a bachelor’s degree entered the workforce after graduation. The percentage of alumni with a bachelor’s degree who pursued graduate school was much smaller, only 9%.
  • I love this topic and I cannot imagine doing anything else. Ensure that graduate school is necessary to find success in working and learning about your topic of interest.

  • A graduate degree could be a barrier to finding employment if the degree is not required. In some occupations, having more education could stand in your way of receiving a job offer as it could be perceived you would require a higher starting salary. 
  • A graduate degree is critical in some fields for upward mobility including in occupations such as management, engineering, education and health care.
  • Depending on your career goals, a degree beyond your undergraduate degree can pay off in terms of earned income over your lifetime. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings are higher for advanced degrees and the unemployment rate is lower. 
  • By attending graduate school you will delay your ability to earn income for two or more years. Does this align with your financial goals? Will attending graduate school improve your earning potential?
  • It’s possible that in your industry it’s common to receive funding from employers for additional schooling. 
  • For jobs in technical fields, there may be alternative options for re-skilling and up-skilling that are shorter-term and lower cost. Consider options such as General Assembly or Galvanize.

  • Graduate school can be really different from your undergraduate experience. Because you have a deep focus on one topic, with less room for electives, are you ready to pick one topic to study for several years?
  • Are you interested in doing significant research on said topic? And then presenting, writing and defending your research? 
  • There are different types of graduate degrees available.
    • A master’s degree typically takes 1-2 years to complete. Some programs will lead to a doctoral degree and other degrees are considered ‘terminal’ degrees (which means you immediately enter the workforce with that degree).
    • A professional degree may take 2-8 years to complete. Professional degrees are usually found in the fields of law, health and education.
    • A doctoral degree is the highest degree possible and can take 5-7 years to complete. They typically require the creation of new knowledge through your research. 
  • The top graduate school fields for CU Boulder alumni include:
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Medicine/dental/nursing
    • Health professions and related programs
    • Law
    • Education
    • Physical sciences
    • Psychology

  • Graduate school requires a lot of reading, writing and researching. Am I ready to commit to a more intensive academic experience for the next few years? Do I enjoy academic reading and writing?
  • Depending on the degree, some programs may have team projects. Will I enjoy collaborating with others on a focused topic? Will I be able to balance team projects with my own graduate work and any additional work I’m doing to earn money?
  • Other programs may require experiential learning such as internships or practicums. Am I prepared that I may need to participate in experiential learning that is potentially either unpaid or low paid? Will I enjoy getting to work in this field?