Home Career Services Exploring Graduate Degree Programs and If They're Right for You
Exploring Graduate Degree Programs and If They're Right for You

Exploring Graduate Degree Programs and If They're Right for You


Start a graduate degree program at American Public University.

By Kimberly Smith
Career Exploration Specialist, APUS

When you decide to pursue a graduate degree, it’s important to go beyond reading course descriptions and contemplate all of the ways the degree program could potentially change your life. Below are areas to thoroughly consider when exploring graduate degree programs.

Reflect on Your Motivations

A graduate degree is a huge investment of your time, finances and effort. To make sure the experience will be worthwhile, be sure to reflect on the motivations prompting you to make the leap at this time. Is obtaining a graduate degree essential to move to the next level in your career? Or do you have another valid reason driving you towards this target?

If you are unsure about why you want to progress with your studies, it is perfectly fine to pause and revisit the opportunity when your goals are more defined. If licensure is required to perform your target role, become familiar with these standards to understand how a graduate degree program aligns with your career goals.

Review Expected Prerequisite Classes

Once you have settled on getting your graduate degree, start investigating programs available at institutions of interest to you. Analyze prerequisite expectations, including the types of programs acceptable for entry to the graduate program or specific courses to be completed prior to applying for admission. There may be a path to fulfilling these prerequisites at your institution; however, it is in your best interest to explore several options to see if there are other providers available to better meet your needs.

Consider Program Competitiveness

There may be limited spots available for graduate degree programs, especially if the subject is in demand. Research the website or contact the institution to inquire about the competitive nature of the admissions process. Ask about the application timeline, acceptance rates and any strategies you can follow to improve your qualifications as a candidate for admission. After all, you will want to focus your energy towards programs where you feel reasonably sure you rank well in comparison to other applicants.

Prepare for Testing

Taking a test before you even begin your academic program is a reality if an entrance exam is required. If such a test is in your future, brush up on your knowledge by reviewing exam study materials and taking pre-tests to check your performance.

Even if you are not required to take an entrance exam, it may be necessary to refresh your skills in general academic areas. Consider practicing your writing and math abilities, as these skills may be vital for success in many graduate degree programs.

Find Out What Alums of Graduate Degree Programs Are Doing

As you make your final decision about a graduate program, engage in the research of program alums to see how this degree may have impacted their careers. You can find plenty of information and expand your network by searching on LinkedIn for individuals who list the program on their profiles. View these user profiles to see the progression of experience and education these individuals have experienced following completion of the degree. Send a message if you would like to ask about the experience from a former student’s perspective.

Attending graduate school can be a transformative experience, setting your future on a new course. Pairing your inspiration with the confidence that comes from making the right choice about your academic program will help to pull you through all of the challenging projects and late-night study sessions!



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At American Public University, students are priority one. We are committed to providing quality education, superior student resources, and affordable tuition. In fact, while post-secondary tuition has risen sharply nationwide, the university continues to offer affordable tuition without sacrificing academic quality.

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