Considering Graduate School

Considering Graduate School

Résumés and Letters     Portfolios     Interviewing

Getting a Master’s
You may be wondering which direction to pursue first—a teaching position or graduate school. Choosing graduate school immediately after college can be a convenience if you don’t have home-ownership obligations and family responsibilities, and you’re still in the mind-set for studying. It’s also a good idea if you think you would feel more confident teaching your subject area with a master’s degree under your belt. Finally, if your state requires earning a master’s degree early in your career, you may find it less stressful to obtain it before you begin the hectic pace of full-time teaching.

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. Perhaps you’ve also heard, “Earn your master’s degree early in your career, and it will give you 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.” No exact rule about getting a master’s degree fits all school districts or personal situations. The best advice about pursuing an advanced degree simply may be—get a master’s degree when you have the opportunity.

When you do look into choosing your master’s program, consider the college’s reputation, the type of programs offered, and accessibility from your workplace. Having a good advisor is a must, as is the college’s accreditation.

What you get your Master’s in is more important than when you get it. For many secondary teachers, the question is whether to get it in their subject area, in education, or in leadership. That depends on what you want to do in the future. For elementary teachers, the choices are not as broad: education, curriculum, or leadership in education are usually all you have. However, look around at different schools and see what the options are for online Master’s degrees as well as those offered on-site or in a combination. You will find a number of other options are available to you. Make some phone calls and ask what each degree qualifies you to do.

That will help you decide if you want a degree where you travel to classes, do it all online, or do a combination. In general, online degrees will cost you less, but may or may not be as respected by some administrators. Online degrees may be completed quicker, but today many colleges offer master’s programs that compare to the 18-24 month, take one course at a time with a cohort plan being used by online programs. If you need the face-to-face stimulation, realize that is important to you and look for a program that has it. 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
When considering getting a doctorate, there are a number of factors to consider. Some people like to just keep going from start to finish with the Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate. However, most programs will not take you for a doctorate until you have used your other degrees and spent some time learning what area you want to focus on. Your doctorate will include research and a dissertation that will take years to complete, so you want to make sure you are choosing an area that really interests you. You will become an expert in that area and may be expected to teach classes on the topic.

For some people, there is a real issue of whether to get a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) or an Ed.D. (Doctor of Education). There are times and places where one is considered better than the other, but for the most part, they are fairly equal in weight and work required and give you the background for the same types of work.

Does someone who wants to remain in a K−12 classroom have a reason to get a doctorate? Absolutely, if they want to do so!

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

Before making a decision about getting a doctorate, you will want to view or listen to “Are You Considering a Doctoral Degree?” by Dr. Mary Clement and Dr. Laurie DeRosa. This webinar presents considerations when pursuing a doctorate degree (PhD or Ed.D), including the type of commitment needed, choosing an institution, demands of programs, and possible job opportunities after completion of the degree. Drs. Clement and DeRosa share their personal journeys from elementary and high school teaching to their professorships, explaining the demands of balancing teaching, research, and service in higher education. They describe how Kappa Delta Pi can help members as they make the career change from teacher to teacher educator. They answer the following questions:

This webcast answers the following questions:
  1. What’s the difference between a PhD and an EdD?
  2. Does it really matter if my doctorate is an online one?
  3. What is the level of commitment needed to succeed in a doctoral program?
  4. Do I have to quit my teaching job to get my doctorate?
  5. Is teaching in higher education easier than teaching in my current classroom?
  6. What are the expectations for teaching in higher education?

Choosing the Right Grad School
You may know exactly where you want to go to graduate school because it is the place you got your undergraduate degree or it is the place other teachers in your school have gotten their graduate degree. However, for most people there are lots of options available. With all the online graduate programs (see Top 25) and various programs on campus where you go through as a cohort or go to Sunday classes, evening classes, or Saturday workshops, almost anyone can fit the classes into their schedule and can find a school that offers the perfect degree for their career. See a short list of graduate programs available.

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a graduate school, not the least of which is “how will I pay for this?” 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 between institutions, but graduate assistants usually work between 12-30 hours a week providing service to the department in exchange for tuition remission and a monthly stipend. Depending on the position and institution, the hourly work scheduled is usually very flexible to accommodate the graduate student’s course schedule.

Often positions will be designated as .15FTE, .33FTE, or .45 FTE, (FTE refers to the hourly percentage full time equivalent). The amount 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 type of tasks assigned to graduate assistants, however most graduate assistantships fall into three types:
  • Research assistants – Could include applying practices and methods of scholarship such as conducting surveys, leading focus groups, providing literature reviews, analyzing data, or writing up findings.
  • Teaching assistants – Could include instruction or instructional support such as teaching classes, preparing course materials, advising students, proctoring exams, grading papers, or supervising labs.
  • Graduate assistants – Could include administrative or technical support such as preparing documents, coordinating travel schedules, facilitating meetings, database creation and management, website creation or maintenance, or project management.

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

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

Questions about choosing an area of concentration can be answered at or or

. Here are a few of the questions you might want to consider in choosing the right graduate school for you:
  • Are short-term weekend classes offered?
  • What are the evening and summer course offerings?
  • 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, 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
Many master’s programs and nearly all doctoral programs require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for entrance. You can register to take it and you can learn more about taking it on the official website: In the “Prepare for the Test” section are downloadable study guides and sample questions.

There are several different study guides you can use to prepare. One way to learn what is on the test and decide what you will need to study is “How to Study for the GRE: Example Questions, Resources, and Study Hacks” at

Many graduate schools require you to take the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) for entrance. Before taking the exam you will want to use a study guide to brush up on a variety of background areas (and review things like math).

The website “How to Study for the GRE: Example Questions, Resources, and Study Hacks” was written by Prof. Dennis Masino and Jackie Giuliano, Ph.D; and includes information to help you understand the GRE and a good summary of the topics covered on the GRE such as verbal and quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. It also covers common mistakes made on the GRE and hints for scoring well.

The official website to register to take the GRE is and it also includes information about preparation.

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

A number of books to study for the GRE are available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

If you are from outside the United States and English is not your primary language, you will also have to take the 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 an Educational Philosophy Statement with the application. Learn how to write one.

Here are some 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 may also need to update your résumé and provide a Curriculum Vitae (CV), so take a look at those sections of the Career Center as needed.

You will need Letters of Recommendation as well. 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 when you request the letter at
Finding Funding for Grad School
Roadmap to Scholarships: Locate and Win the Scholarships of Your Dreams
Presented by Ryan Stivers

Many college and graduate school students incur a large amount of debt while paying for schooling. With the help of scholarships, however, additional funding can be found. The keys are knowing where to look for scholarships, using resources you may not even know you have, and using your personal story to make yourself stand out on an application. Learn how perseverance and the right attitude can make all the difference!

Finding Funding for Grad School
Presented by Megan Palsa

Webcasts to Help You if You are Considering Grad School
Stress Management for Educators
Presented by Richard Rose

Teachers have done so much with so little so quickly and for so long that it is hardly surprising they might need help managing stress. Presenter Dr. Richard Rose, founder and instructor of a Texas mindfulness community program and long trained in stress management, teaches the benefits of a stress management system for educators, intervention techniques to reduce stress symptoms at critical moments in the classroom, methods to “keep one’s cool” in the presence of students and colleagues, and a framework for personal stress management.

Teachers Can Be Millionaires, Too! Getting Started
Presented by Rob Jones

Veteran educator and personal finance expert Rob Jones shares how the power of compound interest can secure your financial future; the types of employee benefits and insurance coverage you need; establishing and using credit; paying student loans; and much more.
Webcasts to Help You if You are in Grad School
Are You Considering a Doctoral Degree?
Presented by Dr. Mary C. Clement and Dr. Laurie DeRosa

Are you considering earning a doctorate and seeking a new education-related job? Presenters and college professors Dr. Mary Clement and Dr. Laurie DeRosa share their journeys from elementary and high school teaching to professorship, and explain the demands of balancing teaching, research, and service in higher education. They answer: What’s the difference between a PhD and an EdD? Does it matter if a doctorate program is online? What level of commitment is needed? Should I quit my teaching job to get my doctorate? Is teaching in higher education easier than classroom teaching? What are the expectations for teaching in higher education?

Common Core State Standards – see this category in the Resources Catalog for several webcasts

Next Generation Science Standards
by Dr. Jill Carter

How can educators use Next Generation Science Standards in their curriculums? NGSS involves science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and cross-cutting concepts. Dr. Jill Carter, a science teacher for more than 30 years, explains how to make the necessary shifts to use the NGSS and how to translate the Standards into classroom instruction. Learn how to get started, read a performance expectation, connect the standards to the Common Core, find resources, and more.

Data Driven Decision Making
– Type this in the keyword area of the Resources Catalog for several webcasts

Using Data to Inform Instruction

Using a Data Chat in Your First Year as a Classroom Teacher

Should I Get a Doctorate?

Surviving the Comprehensive Candidacy Exam for Doctorate
Articles of Value
A How-To Guide for the Education Thesis or Dissertation
by Cynthia Lee A. Pemberton

It is the highest level—and often the busiest—of students that pursue a doctorate degree, with families and jobs competing against the demands of graduate-level education work. To assist educators in managing 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 by Carol A. Mullen With support and guidance, graduate students can successfully pursue academic writing for publication.

A “How-to” Guide for the Education Thesis / Dissertation Process”

From the Classroom to the Lecture Hall: Adapting Your Teaching Style to Changing Concepts

Webcasts to Help You if You are in a Doctoral Program
Writing a Dissertation: Am I Ready for This?
Presented by Roxanne Williams

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 already in the midst of the journey. The following themes are explored: 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
Presented by Anna Quinzio-Zafran

Are you working hard to become Dr. So-and-so? 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
Presented by Elizabeth A. Wilkins and Keon Ruiter

Presenters discuss how to take your teaching knowledge and classroom successes and turn them into a published article. With the guidelines, suggestions, and inside tips from these published presenters, 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.

Entering the Hallowed Halls of Academia

Presented by Deborah Morowski and Antonio Castro

Learn essential insights into the process of moving from doctoral candidate to assistant professor and the culture and expectations inherent to higher education. Drs. Morowski and Castro share tips for preparing a vitae, interviewing, selecting the right institution, and surviving the first year in academia.

Survival Guide for New Faculty Members
Presented by Jeffrey Bakken and Cynthia Simpson

New or aspiring professors will hear examples and scenarios to help them become prepared to be a faculty member, advocate for what they need to be successful, and implement strategies for success. Drs. Bakken and Simpson also discuss choosing an institution, making time for research, documenting progress, fitting in service, and finding balance between family and work.

Find more webinars and articles to help you in the Resources Catalog, especially in the Higher Ed category. Articles and webinars on being published and moving up in academia are there also.

So You Want to Publish? Increasing Your Chances and Avoiding the Pitfalls
Presented by Chapina Rumsey and Lotta Larson

Whether you are under the academic pressure to “publish or perish,” or a classroom teacher with great ideas to share, this session offers practical ideas for publishing your work and enjoying the process. Two teacher educators with publishing experience help you to find an appropriate outlet for publication, write a quality manuscript, survive the review process, and celebrate your published work as it is shared with others.

Plan, Achieve, and Succeed: The Transition from New Professor to Promotion and Tenure
Presented by Marisa Cohen and Dr. Elizabeth Wilkins

A new journey awaits you—the one to tenure. Tenure/promotion decisions are critical, so it is important to plan steps in order to achieve that next goal. This webinar will provide practical insight from the perspective of both a first year tenure-track assistant professor and a seasoned, tenured professor on successfully walking the path of academia. Whether you are at a research institution or a teaching college, there are commonalities that all new faculty experience.

It’s Worth the Ride: Moving up in Academia

Presented by Dr. Rea Kirk and Dr. John Nkemnji

Whether it is moving up a rank, asking for a merit raise, or going for tenure, this webinar presents advice about getting to the next level. Professors Dr. Rea Kirk and Dr. John Nkemnji explain the importance of committee work, involvement in professional organizations, and community service, as well as having the right relationships with students, colleagues, and administrators. Hear the official and unofficial requirements for rank, salary, and tenure.