Determine your educational needs and wants

Perhaps the career you’re interested in requires a graduate education or a post-degree program or maybe you’ve determined that a post-degree diploma or certificate would make you a more desirable candidate in your chosen occupation.

Take the Quiz:

Should I get more education?

University Options

Pros
  • you have much more opportunity to determine the focus of your research
  • intensive, in-depth exploration of a field of interest with like-minded peers
  • professors are tenured and are actively involved in research
  • you often have a chance to be involved in the research of your professors, and to work closely with a professor who shares your research interests
  • you sometimes have the opportunity to attend and even present at academic conferences and/or publish articles in academic publications
  • funding packages often cover tuition and most of your living expenses
Cons
  • it can be expensive if you don’t have funding, or if your funding isn’t enough
  • grad school is very hard work – like the busiest time of your Bachelor degree for 1-2 years
  • in some cases having a masters or PhD may make you appear overqualified for entry-level positions
  • sometimes it can be difficult to find professors who share your interests or courses related to your area of interest
Pros
  • professional schools are directly related to specific career paths, and in many cases are required in order to practice in the field
  • these programs are taught by professionals with whom you can network to aid transition into the field
  • professional programs almost always have an extensive experiential component so you receive professional mentorship and support
  • employers in these fields often work closely with these programs to identify potential employees
Cons
  • professional programs are very competitive and most applicants will not be accepted
  • tuition for these programs can be very high, with very little entry scholarships
  • many programs require you to write a qualifying exam e.g. GRE, MCAT, LSAT etc. which can be difficult, expensive and can take a lot of preparation
  • no degree will guarantee you a good job when you graduate – no matter what the program is, some graduates will struggle to get a related job they want when they are finished
Pros
  • can provide a career-focused complement to a university degree
  • sometimes courses maybe taken as part of your degree
  • a good way to get a ‘bite-sized’ taste of a potential career path
Cons
  • these can be expensive, as each course costs the same as a university course
  • may be more theoretical than experiential in focus
  • may not be taught by a professional in the field
  • many courses cannot be taken as part of your undergrad degree

COLLEGE OPTIONS

Pros
  • these are job training programs intended to prepare you to work in specific fields
  • having a university degree means you can ‘fast track’ a college diploma, which means you will be exempt from general education and elective courses and can graduate more quickly than regular college students
  • many of the teachers in these programs are, or have been, professionals in the field making them valuable industry contacts
  • many post grad diplomas offer field placements/co-ops/internships which can provide professional references, industry contacts, and sometimes, even job offers
Cons
  • course content and or equipment may not be up to date with the newest trends in the field
  • some programs only offer classroom training without any real world experiences
  • there may not be market demand in the occupation for which you are training when you graduate
  • field placements may not be in organizations with whom you want to work when you graduate

Selecting a Post Grad Program Exercise

» Selecting a Post-Grad Program worksheet [PDF – 326kB]
This chart lays out some of the factors you should consider when selecting the program to which you want to apply. Go through the list and think about how important each of these issues are to you. Then research each of your potential programs to see how strong they are in terms of these factors. You’ll want to focus on programs that support your highest priorities. Where there are significant gaps between what you think is critical and a particular program, take a closer look to determine if it will really meet your expectations.

Relevant to my career

If your primary motivation for pursuing further education is to enhance your career prospects, than mark this category as a ‘deal breaker’. This means that if a particular program does not clearly link to a related career path, or provide experiential learning opportunities, it may not be a good fit for you. If the career relatedness is not very important to you, then circle ‘don’t care’ and if you are somewhere in between, circle ‘preferable’ which means you’d like it to help your career, but that is not your greatest motivation.

Relevant to my interests

Maybe there is a topic or discipline you discovered during your undergraduate years that you found deeply interesting. This might be the perfect time to dig even deeper in a Masters program. If you want to keep on studying, because, well, you love it, then circle “deal breaker”. If the career relevancy of a program is more important than pursuing your research interests, then circle either “preferable” or “not important”, depending on how strongly you feel about this factor.

Duration

By the time you finish your degree, most people will have been in classrooms for 18 years or more, and are exhausted. Are you really up for another two years or more of intensive study? Maybe 9 months or less would feel more doable at this point. If you know it would be a real stretch to face another degree at this point, then circle “deal breaker”, but if this isn’t an issue for you, then circle ‘don’t care’ – ‘preferable’ is for people who would prefer less schooling right now, but will do what is necessary to reach their goals.

Cost

Many students pursue their Bachelor degree with financial support from their parents. Not very many parents have saved money to pay for multiple degrees however, so most students need to find their own sources of funding to pursue post graduate education. Most Masters programs offer funding now, but few professional schools and colleges do. Consider your own financial status now, and take time to realistically consider how much you will be in debt when you graduate. Maybe you would be better off paying back some of your loans, or saving up for a while before you pursue more education. If the cost of a post grad program is an important factor for you, circle deal breaker. If it doesn’t matter, you would sign up no matter what the cost, circle ‘don’t care’. If you’d like funding from either the government or the institution, but this isn’t an absolute requirement, then circle ‘preferable’.

Guaranteed funding

This is closely related to the previous category, but is separate because most students don’t take enough time to understand how the funding structure of their prospective programs work – they just assume it’ll work for them. One of the most common reasons that students drop out of grad school is that they simply don’t have enough money to survive on. If you are a full-time grad student, you will likely have limitations on how many hours you’re allowed to work to maintain your full time status and your eligibility for funding. Ask questions of your program and make sure you have accurate information on what you will need to finance this next stage of your education. If you can’t afford to attend without a certain level of funding, know what that level is and circle ‘deal breaker’. If you are willing to, and will be eligible for a bank loan or OSAP if the funding isn’t enough, circle either “preferable” or “doesn’t matter” whichever is relevant to your circumstances.

Employment outlook

If you indicated that you expect any future education to prepare you for the workforce, you might want to do some research to see what the predictions are for demand in the relevant fields. Keep in mind that employment outlook data is predictive, not fact, so it is no guarantee of employment. If it is important that the program you choose trains you for employment in a high-demand field, circle “deal breaker”. “Preferable” should be circled when you’d like the predictions to suggest there will be demand, but it’s not necessarily a deal breaker if they don’t and, of course, “doesn’t matter” should be circled if that’s what’s so for you.

Hands-on learning

Again, if you indicated that you expect any future education to prepare you for the workforce, what you probably need as much as specific training, is experience. In this case, seek out programs with a hands-on learning component like a field placement, an internship or co-op. These experiences will be invaluable when you graduate, can open doors in the organizations with which you are placed, and be a good source of references in your desired field. If this applies to you, circle “deal-breaker” or “preferable” – and if it doesn’t, circle “don’t care”.

Location

Sometimes where the school /program is located can be a really important consideration. If the location it will require you to move, what will that do to your budget? What is the cost of living in that other location? If you are hoping to eventually apply to a PhD program, there are often professional advantages to attending different universities for each of your degrees. Your professors can provide field specific advice about this. If it turns out that location is a significant issue for you circle “deal breaker”; if it is somewhat important, circle ‘preferable” and obviously, if it’s not important, circle “don’t care”.

Reputation of the program

This is less of an issue in Canada than in the United States where they have the ‘ivy-league’ system, but there are nonetheless some cases where the reputation of the program might be an issue. MBA programs, for instance, go to great lengths to foster close relationships with high demand employers, often through alumni relationships. If you are planning to take an MBA, it may be worth finding out which companies have a strong relationship with the programs you are considering. Some programs have strong reputations in particular areas like York’s Political Science graduate program and Osgoode Hall Law School. Your professors can advise you which programs and which scholars are most highly regarded in your area of interest. If it turns out this is important in your case, then select either “deal breaker” or “preferable” for this category.

Review the Exercise

Go thorough the categories and take note of your most highly ranked factors. As you are researching particular programs, pay particular attention to how they measure up in these areas. This should be the only factors you consider when selecting a post grad program, but ensuring the program you eventually select is strong in the areas most important to you, can go a long way to ensuring the investment of time and money this decision will require, will be worthwhile to you in the long run.

Resources to assist you in making a decision about further studies

Career Cruising: Research and explore detailed information about careers and educational programs using this multimedia online resource. Professional organizations and associations are an excellent way to learn more about a career of interest, professional designations, and networking opportunities (e.g. memberships, conferences). For additional professional associations visit the Career Cruising website; login information and the link to the site can be found on the Career Centre home page of Experience York, under CAREER DEVELOPMENT TOOLS.

Graduate & Professional Studies Expo: Connect with educational recruiters from business and law schools, teachers colleges, graduate studies programs, professional schools and community colleges, and improve your chances of getting into the program of your choice.

SchoolFinder: This site has information about Canadian universities, colleges, and career colleges, and allows you to search for academic programs, scholarships, tuition fees, and careers.

York University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies: Check out the many graduate degrees and post-graduate programs offered right here at York!

Universitystudy.ca (Universities Canada): Choose the type of program you’re looking for and find which Canadian universities offer that program.

Gradzilla: Research graduate programs in the US with this Facebook application.