Considering Graduate School

Résumés and Letters Portfolios Interviewing

Pursuing a Master’s Degree
You may wonder which to pursue first: a teaching position or graduate school. Choosing graduate school immediately after college can be convenient, without having the responsibilities of home-ownership and family. Plus, you’re still in the studying mindset. You also may feel more confident teaching if you have a master’s degree. Plus, your state may require a master’s degree early in your career, so it might be less stressful to obtain it before you begin the hectic pace of full-time teaching.

The time when you attend graduate school is a subjective decision based on your goals, finances, time, and family situation. You may have heard that schools won’t hire new teachers with master’s degrees because they are too expensive and still inexperienced. Yet you’ve also heard, “Earn your master’s degree early in your career, for a higher salary for a longer time,” or “Your master’s degree indicates that you are a master teacher, and what you learn in the program will make you a stronger professional.” Rules about getting a master’s degree will not work for all school districts or personal situations. The best advice simply may be to pursue a master’s degree when the opportunity is right for you.

Your master’s program major is more important than when you choose to get it. Secondary teachers can get it in their subject area, in education, or in leadership, depending on what you want to do in the future. Elementary teachers are limited to education, curriculum, or leadership in education.

When choosing your master’s program, consider the college’s reputation, programs offered, and accessibility from your workplace. Having a good advisor is a must, as is the college’s accreditation. Some schools offer master’s degrees online, on-site, or as a combination.

Online degrees may cost less, but are not always as respected by some administrators. Online degrees may be completed more quickly, but many colleges offer master’s programs that can be completed in 18–24 months. If you need the face-to-face interaction, look for a traditional school. If you have a family and obligations and are teaching, at least part of your program being online will be a huge benefit.

Getting a Doctorate
Many factors influence pursing a doctorate. Most programs will not accept you until you have used your other degrees and spent time learning your focus area. Your doctorate will include research and a dissertation that will take years to complete, so it requires a significant commitment to your subject area. You will become an expert in that area and may be expected to teach classes on the topic.

Should it be a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) or an EdD (Doctor of Education)? Situations dictate whether one is better than the other but, generally, they are fairly equal in weight and required work and give you the background for the same types of work.

If I want to remain in a K−12 classroom should I get a doctorate? Absolutely, if you want it!

Will a doctorate make a me a better classroom teacher? Yes, in many cases, but not necessarily.

Before deciding, you should watch “Are You Considering a Doctoral Degree?” This webinar presents considerations of a doctorate degree, including the commitment needed, institution selection, program demands, and possible job opportunities after degree completion. This webcast answers these questions:

  • What’s the difference between a PhD and an EdD?
  • Does it really matter if my doctorate is from an online program?
  • What is the level of commitment needed to succeed in a doctoral program?
  • Do I have to quit my teaching job to get my doctorate?
  • Is teaching in higher education easier than teaching in my current classroom?
  • What are the expectations for teaching in higher education?

Choosing a Graduate School
With all the online and on-campus programs (see Top 25) as well as programs with a cohort, and Sunday classes, evening classes, or Saturday workshops, it’s never been easier to fit classes into a busy schedule and find a school that offers the most fitting degree. See a short list of graduate programs available.

How will you pay for graduate school? See the webcasts Roadmap to Scholarships: Locate and Win the Scholarships of Your Dreams and Finding Funding for Grad School and apply for a KDP Scholarship or two.

Along with scholarships and loans, graduate assistantships are a common way U.S. graduate programs offer financial support and tuition remission to doctoral students. Requirements and duties vary by institution, but graduate assistants usually work 12–30 hours a week in service to the department in exchange for tuition remission and a monthly stipend. Depending on the position and institution, the work schedule is usually very flexible to accommodate the student’s course schedule.

Often, positions are designated as .15FTE, .33FTE, or .45 FTE, (FTE = hourly percentage full time equivalent). The number of work hours contracted and corresponding monthly stipend for the assistantship will vary according to the position and institution’s graduate assistant compensation schedule.

Each university and academic department is unique in the tasks assigned to graduate assistants; however, most graduate assistantships fall into three types:

  • Research assistants – Applying practices and methods of scholarship such as conducting surveys, leading focus groups, providing literature reviews, analyzing data, or writing up findings.
  • Teaching assistants – Providing instruction or instructional support such as teaching classes, preparing course materials, advising students, proctoring exams, grading papers, or supervising labs.
  • Graduate assistants – Giving administrative or technical support such as document preparation, travel schedule coordination, meeting facilitation, database creation and management, website creation or maintenance, or project management.

Since graduate assistantships are supervised by faculty members, they offer networking and mentoring with faculty and an additional source of professional development resources and experience. Even if your program’s specific departments have limited positions available, working as a graduate assistant in other departments can provide a rich multidisciplinary educational experience. Learn more about Grad Assistantships.

Many of your questions about applying to grad school are answered on

Find answers about choosing a concentration area at or or

Here are a few questions to consider in choosing the right graduate school for you:

  • Are short-term weekend classes offered?
  • What are the course offerings for evening and summer?
  • Will the program emphasize research only or include practical classes in advanced teaching methods?
  • What do former students say about the program?
  • Is it possible to add an administrative certificate, or TESOL or other certifications to my teaching certificate with this master’s?
  • Are there cohort groups for student support in this program?
  • What financial aid and scholarships are available?

You may want to read the Education Week blog regularly.

Applying to Graduate School
Most programs require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for entrance. Register and learn more at The “Prepare for the Test” section includes study guides and sample questions.

Try using “How to Study for the GRE: Example Questions, Resources, and Study Hacks.” It includes a summary of the topics covered, such as verbal and quantitative reasoning and analytical writing, as well as common mistakes and hints for scoring well.

To register for the GRE visit It also includes preparation information.

If you operate better in a classroom environment, Kaplan Test Prep offers tutoring and classes that are self-paced, online, or in the classroom. These are more expensive than a book or website.

More study books are available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

If you are outside the United States and English is not your primary language, you must take TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Free practice tests for the TOEFL are available from

Most graduate schools require a Personal Statement or Educational Philosophy Statement with the application. Learn how to write one.

Sample Personal Statements
English Personal Statement
ESL Personal Statement
STEM Personal Statement

See a sample and get more help with Personal Statements in Education at

You need to update your e-portfolio, résumé, and Curriculum Vitae (CV). You will need letters of recommendation. These may need to come from very specific people—a past professor, a principal where you teach or taught, or others. See examples and learn how to coach the person writing the letter at

Resources: Webinars and Articles for Graduate School
Finding Funding for Grad School

Get an overview on finding and competing for fellowships.

Roadmap to Scholarships: Locate and Win the Scholarships of Your Dreams
Scholarships can help offset the cost of additional education. The keys are knowing where to look for scholarships, using resources, and using your personal story to make your application stand out. Learn how perseverance and the right attitude can make all the difference!

A How-To Guide for the Education Thesis or Dissertation
It is the highest level—and often the busiest—of students who pursue a doctorate degree, with families and jobs competing against the demands of graduate-level education work. To assist educators in their pursuit of excellence along with their professional and personal lives, this article outlines practical “how-to” guidelines for engaging in thesis or dissertation work.

Best Writing Practices for Graduate Students: Reducing the Discomfort of the Blank Screen
With support and guidance, graduate students can successfully pursue academic writing for publication.

Writing a Dissertation: Am I Ready for This?
Learn the joys and pitfalls of dissertation writing and what it takes to write at the doctoral level. Specific tips on how to improve expository writing helps those new to the process. Writing rubrics and chapter guidelines are made available for those on the journey. They explore: questioning prerequisite writing skills, polishing your writing, fulfilling the components of a dissertation, and scrutinizing your attitudes about writing.

Surviving the Comprehensive Candidacy Exam for Doctorate
Passing the candidacy exam is the gateway to accomplishing your dream of graduating with a PhD or EdD. Getting past this anxiety-ridden milestone is the toughest step in the process. Get tips on preparing for and understanding the exam, knowing your examiners, and reducing your stress!

5 Tips for Getting Published
Take your teaching knowledge and classroom successes and turn them into a published article. With these guidelines, suggestions, and inside tips, you'll discover how easy it can be to add "published author" to your list of accomplishments! They offer article examples, samples of publications, and a brainstorming exchange of topics.

For more webinars and articles, visit the KDP Resources Catalog, especially in the Higher Education category.