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Should You Go to Graduate School?
July 30, 2019

Whether or not to pursue a graduate (masters) degree is a decision that requires a lot of thought, research and financial planning. Whether you’re considering an on-campus or online program there is much to ponder. We interviewed Deborah Kohl, Coordinator of the online Master of Agribusiness Program at Kansas State University and Dr. Deborah VanOverbeke, Assistant Dean for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Oklahoma State University. Both have extensive experience in working with graduate students and shared valuable insight to reflect on as you decide if graduate school is right for you.


What type of student typically finds the most success in graduate school?


VanOverbeke: The student who has a goal and a mission, the student who is self-driven and desires to find answers, and the student who has a strong work ethic will have tremendous success in graduate school. Students need to realize that graduate school is a completely different beast than their undergraduate degree…there is a lot more required of a graduate student.


What are the right reasons for pursuing an advanced degree?


Kohl: The right reasons would include a desire to build skills necessary to advance your career, to be a better leader and an asset to the organization in which you serve.


VanOverbeke: A desire for further education in a specific discipline that fulfills the needs and requirements of the job you wish to pursue and a passion for the discipline you are studying further. If you aren’t passionate about what you are studying, writing the thesis or dissertation will be a painful experience.


What are the wrong reasons for pursuing an advanced degree?


Kohl: Don’t do a program just to check the box and get it done. Doing an off-the-shelf program is a waste of your resources when you could do a program that addresses challenges and opportunities in your current professional area. If all you are doing is posting to a message board and uploading assignments you may be getting the degree, but you are missing out on a lot of learning and skill building.


VanOverbeke: I hear a lot of students say that they are going to go to graduate school because, 1) they don’t know what they want to do, or 2) someone said it would be good for them. To me, these are the wrong reasons. If you don’t know what you want to do, how are you going to be passionate about the field and if you are doing it for someone else, is it really your passion?


What tips do you have for individuals working full time while simultaneously pursuing an online graduate degree?


Kohl: Communicate with your personal and professional support network so they know you are pursuing a degree. You may be surprised by how they are able to challenge and support you through your degree plan. Not all programs are created equal. Selectively choose a program with coursework you can apply to the work you do professionally because you will be more engaged. Also look for support staff who are responsive and understand how to work with professional students.


VanOverbeke: Stay strong- you are fulfilling a goal that will take you further in your career. And, don’t overdo it in any given semester. Know the limits of how many courses you can fulfill given the expectations of your job during that term. Yes, you may have to give up a few things to get this done, but it will be worth it in the end.


Students now have more options than ever for obtaining an advanced degree, including completing the program online. The University Partners program is designed to showcase and share opportunities about educational advancement opportunities. Check out the array of online programs offered by our University Partners.

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