Prepare for Graduate School

Should You Attend Graduate School?

Many consider attending graduate school to gain knowledge in a particular field of interest, to expand career opportunities and increase earning potential, or to work closely with experts in a field. The 2013 MIT Graduating Student Survey found that 35.3 percent of graduating seniors planned to pursue advanced degrees right after graduation. Give yourself plenty of time to make this decision. The Graduate School Application Timeline (pdf) for the graduate school application process will help you stay on track.

Self Assessment and Decision Making

Self assessment is important when deciding if graduate school is critical to your career plan and if the timing is right. Would graduate school help you reach your goals? Learn more about the fields you are interested in through informational interviews, books at the MIT Libraries or GECD library (room E39-305), and internships. GECD Career Services offers career counseling appointments that can help you weigh the pros and cons. As part of the self-assessment process, carefully consider how you make decisions.

Academic Preparation

Strong undergraduate academic preparation is essential for graduate school. Key skills include critical thinking, analytical abilities, research abilities, written communication, verbal communication, time management, self motivation, and self discipline.

Graduate schools require a strong undergraduate GPA, and you will be asked to submit a transcript with your application. Be sure to investigate what courses are prerequisites for the programs you wish to enter. Departmental academic advisors or Student Support Services can help you plan your academic schedule or provide support if needed. MIT faculty in your field of interest can also provide graduate school advice.

Types of Graduate Degrees

Which degree makes the most sense for you? Talk to people in the field to decide. 

  • Research Master's: typically one to two years, designed for students to gain expertise in research or scholarship, often a step towards a Ph.D.
  • Professional Master's: typically one to two years, often a terminal degree, meant to prepare a student to work in a specific field such as engineering, education or counseling.
  • Research Doctorate: also known as a Ph.D. or Sc.D. takes a minimum of four to six years of full-time study and involves course work and a major research project
  • Professional Doctorate: typically refers to the M.D. for medical practice and J.D. for law

Gain Experience

Graduate schools look for demonstrated interest in the field you are planning to study. Gaining research (especially important for PhD candidates), job, internship or volunteer experience in the field, in addition to what you have studied as an undergraduate or Master's student, will help you build a competitive application. Actively participating in relevant student organizations can also demonstrate your interest.