graduate school

Till Death (or graduation) Do You Part – Selecting a Research Topic

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The topics you studied in the general ed classes of your undergraduate years were one night stands; fun for the semester, but rarely thought about after. Selecting a research topic in grad school is the equivalent of dating in your late twenties; you’re looking for something serious that through all the toils and trials, will stand the test of time.

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Picking a subject that already has a fair amount of existing research is usually a smart way to begin your academic marriage. This probably seems counterproductive as you are thinking “Why would I pick something that already has been researched to death? What could I possibly discover.”As any experienced student will tell you, the starting point of all research papers is the literature review: the portion of the paper where you cite the works of people much smarter and more accomplished than yourself. One day, some wet behind the ears first year may be citing one of your many published works but for now, your professor is going to expect a certain number of citations to earn a passing grade. So while the 14th century mating habits of the indigenous people of Utah may sound like a winning topic, if your EBSCOhost search returns only three results, you my want to venture in a different direction.

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When you reach a certain age, you’re going to want to expand your family from just you and your partner, to a few children and maybe a corgi. As with your relationship, you’ll find it wise to select a topic in which you can branch out on during your time in your program. Keeping in mind you are selecting a thesis that you’ll be with from your intro class to your capstone, you most certainly will want one that will give you the most milage. My topic area of Greek Life has spawned research projects on diversity, privilege, academic success and hazing ethics. You and your topic will be expected to reproduce numerous times during your program, so pick one that is fertile.

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The most important aspect in choosing your topic area, is selecting something you are actually interested in. As with your significant other, you’re going to spend much time with your research topic. All of those long evenings hunched over your laptop in a coffee house or late nights closing down the library will be much more enjoyable if you’re studying something that piques and holds your attention. Just as passion fuels the fires of your romances, may it incite your academic pursuits as well.

5 Professions That Require a Master’s Degree

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While the economic forecast may make you gloomy, it will give you peace of mind to know that many industry sectors today are thriving. What does that mean for you? You guessed it: jobs do exist!

grad school professionsBut professional success won’t necessarily come fast and easy. Some of the best and most lucrative career paths require significant applied intelligence, creativity, and hard work. They also may require years of formal training involving some higher education, such as a master’s degree. Below are career paths that require a master’s degree for you to evaluate and see if one is right for you:

1) School Administrator – Master’s or doctoral educational administration degrees are available for students seeking a career in education. Such degrees will qualify students to work as school principals, assistant principals, educational board members, or faculty advisors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment rates for post-secondary school administrators will grow by 19 percent between 2010 and 2020, and the median annual salary in 2010 was $83,710 for post-secondary school administrators.

2) Marriage and Family Therapist – A Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy will provide students with the experience necessary to practice in this field. According to the BLS, most marriage and family therapists in the U.S. work for service or government-run agencies, outpatient care centers, or at physicians’ offices. Employment is predicted to grow by 37 percent through 2020, and the median annual salary in 2010 was $39,710.

3) Social Worker – To enter the workforce as a social worker, you will need to earn a master’s degree in clinical social work. According to the BLS, this field is expected to grow by 25 percent through 2020, and, in 2010, social workers earned a median annual salary of $42,480.

4) Physician Assistant – Accredited master’s degrees will qualify physician assistants to perform medical diagnostics and procedures under the supervision of physicians, as well as provide a license for them to practice. According to the BLS, employment in this field will increase by 30 percent from 2010 and 2020, largely due to healthcare industry expansion, and the median annual salary for the position in 2010 was $86,410.

5) Computer and Information Research Scientist – Breaking into this field requires a Master’s or Ph.D. in Computer Science to better prepare workers for all aspects of computer and information science. According to the BLS, this occupation will increase by 19 percent from 2010 to 2020, and, in 2010, the average annual salary wage was $100,600.

The above positions will provide a rewarding career path for you, as well as substantial financial benefits. However, in order to gain employment in these fields, you must earn a master’s degree, which will provide you with a competitive edge in today’s tough job market.

Mandy Fricke is the community manager for Elearners.com where she helps manage their online community for their master’s programs. In her free time she enjoys biking, traveling, and reading in coffee shops.

(Sources available upon request)

2014 Best Grad Schools:Inside the Guide [An Infographic]

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So you’re about to graduate college – congrats! What now?

As the economy recovers, so does the job market, allowing new opportunities to emerge. This is great news for those who are currently in college! However, many of these jobs require candidates to have more than an undergraduate degree. It is predicted that 2.6 million new jobs will be created between 2010 and 2020, and that individuals with masters or doctoral degrees will be the ones to fill those spots.

Many students are turning to graduate school as a way of carving a niche for themselves in today’s competitive job market. Grad school can be a risky bet which could land you in a deep pit of student loan debt, or it could result in a dream job with a six-digit salary. Such a commitment requires a great deal of research, and with the growing number of programs offered it can quickly become an overwhelming process. Meeting with advisers and professors is a great starting point, but most students will want to do some investigating on their own. It is important to gather a wide variety of non-biased information, but with the endless amount of websites, books and blog articles dedicated to “facts” about grad school, it can be difficult to find high-quality sources. This is why I recommend U.S. News & World Report’s annual Grad Guide.

Best Grad Schools Infographic

 

Each year, U.S. News & World Report surveys thousands of programs and academic professionals to create a guidebook that helps students navigate the world of graduate school. For the second year in a row, eCampus.com has taken some key information from this elaborate, 200+ page grad guide and created an infographic to help students streamline their research. The goal behind this piece, as with all infographics, is to take a large amount of information and condense it into a unique graphic that’s easy to understand. Similar to the 2013 grad school infographic, The Good & The Bad in Bad, this 2014 edition highlights trends regarding admissions, debt and salaries for the top five professional fields (Business, Education, Engineering, Health & Medicine and Law).

New this year is a section called the “Virtual Path”, which describes the growth in options for online graduate programs. There is also the option to attend a partially online program, where some classroom attendance is required. Such opportunities are favored among non-traditional students who may have children or a full-time job. As this trend increases you will find that there are some great resources for affordable online education programs.

As graduate school becomes a more prevalent option for those holding college degrees, it is important that this decision is made with all of the right information at hand. This infographic should not be used to replace your grad school research, but it is a great way to quickly gather information and gain an understanding of new trends in the academic and professional worlds.

Good luck to all who join me in the pursuit of a higher-education!

To view the full infographic, and purchase your copy of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Graduate Schools 2014 guidebook at 10% off list price, visit http://www.ecampus.com/best-grad-schools.asp or click the above image.

Senior Status: Deciding Where to Go Post-Grad

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One of the harder decisions for after graduation is deciding where you want to end up. You might have once dreamed about living in NYC, but does that still seem like a possibility now with the job market and the career you want? If you’ve spent your whole life, including college, living close to family, is it time to move away or can you not stand the thought of leaving them behind? For some, it’s as simple as moving to wherever you can find a job. For others, this could be the hardest decision since deciding where to apply for college.

After college is when your life truly begins. Or so everyone says. We have our first real jobs, a house or apartment to ourselves, and we’re completely responsible for our own well being. If that doesn’t sound stressful enough, we have to figure out where will make us happiest—or at least where we can tolerate living until something better comes along. So where do we begin deciding what we want to do and where we want to go?

It seems the best way to go about this decision is to talk to advisors about a career path. Meet with your favorite professors in your field, go to career services at your school, and even talk to your family about what you can do with your degree. Though you might not know what you want to do down to the job title, you probably have some idea as to what kind of workplace you can see yourself in—after all, thinking about a future job is probably what got you into your college major. But if you’ve changed your mind about the career path you may have begun forging for yourself with your degree and internships, definitely do some research on your own and take advantage of people on campus to figure out the best next steps.

When you do have a career path in mind and know what kind of position you want—and can be hired for—it’s time for more research. Though you might feel qualified for a position after your undergrad work, sometimes certain fields or job titles require a higher level of education. Others might scare you in their job descriptions with requests for people with years of experience in the field. Don’t let these things discourage you. If you’re holding off on graduate school or just know you never want to bother with it, it’s important to look into other options; if you’re dead-set on a certain position though, you may want to reconsider your nay to graduate school if it’s needed.

Once you figure out what skills you have, what kind of job you want and can get hired for, it’s time to think about who you want to work for. Obviously, a major part of this decision is paying attention to who’s hiring. But before getting into all that, you should make a list of companies where you would like to work. For example, as an art history major, I looked into a lot of museums, including the big well-knowns like MoMA. Check out their websites, find out what positions they have open or even if they have any internships you can start off with. Though you might not get a job at the big-name companies right off the bat, at least you’ll start to have an idea of what kind of experience they want in their staff and the kinds of positions they offer. If you have a certain place you want to live, start with those companies and begin crafting resumes and cover letters for there first. Though it might be scary, don’t be afraid to apply to jobs farther from home and in places you’d never expect to live in. Even if you don’t end up there long term, it’s a good foot in the door to have and can lead to an even better future.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you. Take advantage of your family, friends, and campus services to help set you on the right path for you. But don’t be afraid to go after what you really want, even if your family will be on the other side of the world or your friends don’t like your decision. This is where your life really begins, and you can live it the way you want to.

Happy researching!