By Kelly Brinton Nelson
Republished with permission from MusicEdMajor.net
This summer I embarked on one of the most challenging– and nerve wracking– journeys of my life: graduate school to pursue a masters degree in music education. This post outlines some of the questions that I had previous to starting this program.
Why go to graduate school?
Teachers are expected to be constantly learning and growing. While professional development and workshops are wonderful ways to add to knowledge, graduate school is a concentrated path of study in one topic. Also, in many states, obtaining a graduate degree will increase the salary of a teacher. Lastly, if career goals include teaching college later on down the road, this may require some form of graduate degree.
What are the differences between graduate and undergraduate study?
What I have noticed as a graduate student is that my professors have higher expectations of us graduate students than they have of undergraduate students. They obviously expect maturity. I remember the first few days of graduate school I would just try to crack jokes and stuff, and everyone would just look at me strangely. Professors expect us students to have a certain amount of knowledge coming in, since usually the graduate program is the next level of what we studied as an undergraduate. Instead of telling me to read something or to work certain problems, I am expected to do those things myself. Also I am expected to be able to do research on my own.
What I have also noticed is that professors are more understanding of what is going on in graduate students’ lives. Graduate students come from all backgrounds and walks of life. They can bring unique experiences but also have different life situations to work around.
Should I go straight out of college, or should I wait awhile?
I have known colleagues that have done both. There is no definite answer, but I think it really depends on your needs and your attitude toward education. Personally, I decided to go teach for a while before even thinking about a graduate degree. Graduating from college was a stressful time– I had just gotten married and I was broke! No way could I afford graduate school!
Also, going to work really helps one realize what he/she wants to get out of graduate school. Teaching for four years helped me realize my strengths and weaknesses as a musician and a teacher, so when I could finally start school I knew what to work toward. I also had experience that I could share with my classmates and professors that I may not have had straight out of college.
Some of you may be ready to begin graduate school right after earning your Bachelor’s degree. There are some definite positives to this. It can be harder to go back to school after having a job for awhile, and even harder if you have a family, bills and other obligations. If you are still young without any of these obligations, and you are ready for it, it may be worth looking into graduate school. Also, the knowledge you obtained in your undergraduate program is still fresh on your mind.
Should I look into an online program or on-site program?
Again, this is up to the needs and attitude of the student. There has been a rising trend with entire degree programs being offered online. Even some on-site programs offer online classes. Online programs are great for people who are working and going to school at the same time. For the most part one can do classwork at any time it is convenient. Depending on the school, sometimes tuition is less with an online program. Currently the only three schools I have found that offer a program online areBoston University, East Carolina University, and University of Southern Mississippi.
There are many different on-site programs. Your average program is full-time for two years. There are some summer programs, especially for teachers, that are even more convenient. I am in a program atAppalachian State University that takes four summers to complete. The classes meet for six weeks every summer.
Making the decision to go to graduate school is not one to be made lightly. Hopefully the above comments will be helpful in helping you decide.
What about you?
Are you a graduate student (or do you have a graduate degree)? What considerations did you take before getting a graduate degree? Are you an undergraduate student with additional questions about grad school? The conversation does not have to stop here! Please leave your thoughts in a comment and this topic can be discussed further!