Graduate and Professional School

Helpful tools and tips to get started.

Post-Graduate Studies

Making the decision to pursue post-graduate studies is one that takes time and careful planning. It is also one that can be tremendously rewarding and challenging. No matter where you are in the process, ECS can assist you! To meet with an ECS adviser to discuss your interest in graduate or professional school, please visit Handshake @ Illinois to schedule an appointment.

Master's programs

A professional master’s degree is a non-thesis, non-research degree. These programs are practice-oriented degrees, in which one seeks to obtain deeper post-graduate training in a discipline prior to undertaking its practice. Most professional master’s degree programs range between one and two years in duration. Most professional master’s degree do require the student to provide funding, i.e., students will pay for their own tuition and fees.

A master’s with thesis is a research-based master’s degree that requires students to complete graduate-level coursework, research, and write/deposit a thesis. Most master’s degree programs with thesis are approximately two years in duration. Students will often receive funding for their education in addition to working as a research or teaching assistant.

Doctoral Programs

A Doctoral program leads to the Ph.D. degree, which is the fundamental qualification for conducting independent scholarly research. Although a master’s degree may be awarded incidentally in the course of a Ph.D. program, and some students who start out as master’s candidates might stay on to complete a Ph.D., there is sometimes little connection between terminal master’s degree programs and Ph.D. programs, even if they are conducted by the same faculty. If research is your primary interest at this point, then you should be considering Ph.D. programs.

While pursuing a Ph.D., you will be closely affiliated with a single department, even with a single professor, often from the beginning of your work. His or her job is to provide intellectual vision and guidance, to represent the research group at conferences and other professional meetings, and to raise money, while graduate students and post-docs (scientists doing a sort of post-Ph.D. apprenticeship before taking up a long-term faculty appointment) conduct much of the actual research. You will be expected to devote many hours to your research and related professional development activities, such as helping to teach courses.

Medical School

Each year, many U of I engineering graduates decide to attend professional schools, including medical school. Students interested in medical school typically make abundant use of both Engineering Career Services' Pre-med advising services as well as The Career Center's Health Professions Advising resources. For more information about applying to medical school, visit the ECS resource page.

Should I Apply to Graduate School?

Ask yourself and research the answers to these questions to help with your decision.

How long will it take?

Depending on the graduate program, you may be adding 1-6 years of additional education.

If I need to take out student loans, is it still worth it?

Funding opportunities like scholarships can be more limited for graduate programs.

Am I ready to work?

Graduate programs provide students with rigorous coursework that is reflective of a higher level of difficulty.

How much will it cost?

Each program will vary on the tuition and estimated living expenses and it's important that you're aware of the financial component of each school.

Is this going to make a difference in my career and long term income?

You want to make sure that the time and effort you're investing in your education is going to be an asset in your career over time.

Should I gain experience first?

Could you benefit from developing some experience working or volunteering full-time before pursuing a graduate degree?

 

Reasons to Apply for Graduate School

 

Academics

You are passionate about scholarly work and academic study and wish to become an expert in a particular field of study.

Advancement

You are certain about your career path, and after researching this field extensively, you know that an advanced degree will either be a requirement or significantly help you reach your career goals or improve your income potential.

Research

You enjoy pursuing your own research topics in a specific field independently and can envision yourself conducting such research for several years to come.

 
 

Questionable Reasons to Apply for Graduate School

 

I should apply for graduate school because I do not know what else to do right now.

You are passionate about scholarly work and academic study and wish to become an expert in a particular field of study.

I would be going because my parents or professors expect me to go.

You are certain about your career path, and after researching this field extensively, you know that an advanced degree will either be a requirement or significantly help you reach your career goals or improve your income potential.

I should apply for graduate school to avoid looking for a job.

You enjoy pursuing your own research topics in a specific field independently and can envision yourself conducting such research for several years to come.

 

Resources

Below are some resources to help you in your decision to apply for graduate school.