The decision to pursue graduate study is multidimensional, embedded with many choices. The first and most important decision is what field to study.  Graduate education is highly specialized. Undergraduate majors prepare students as generalists unlike undergraduate education. hey learn how to think within a given discipline and also learn a little bit about each subdiscipline within the field. Undergraduate majors emphasize breadth, offering broad knowledge of a field. However, graduate study emphasizes depth. Graduate applicants apply to specific subdisciplines, and once enrolled in grad school they further specialize into highly specific topic areas. Many students who consider graduate study are unaware that it is not a matter of simply applying to graduate programs in a broad field, such as psychology, for example.  Applicants must choose a specific subfield, such as clinical psychology, social psychology, and so on instead. At the doctoral level, where graduate programs often specialize even further by emphasizing one or more aspects of a subdiscipline, such as a clinical psychologist specializing in the elderly, for example, this is especially true. Many students wonder what specialty area is for them and what type of graduate program to which to apply, faced with this information.

 

How to choose a field of graduate study

Some feel overwhelmed by this decision and quickly choose the most popular and most visible subdiscipline. Not so fast! Take the time to work though this difficult decision. To ensure that it is one that you will be happy with for the length of your career, carefully consider your options and weigh your decision. An applicant’s undergraduate degree often informs his or her choice of graduate degree, but this need not be the case. There is no need for a direct match but you must fulfill some basic requirements. Graduate programs often list required undergraduate majors and courses. Make sure that you review each graduate program’s requirements to ensure that you have what they are looking for in case you majored in a different field. What do you do if specific courses are not listed? Complete a minor in the field to gather knowledge and experience – and show admissions committees that you are serious. Look at the list of required courses for the undergraduate major. Take some of the required courses in case a minor isn’t possible or you have already graduated college. Take some of the required courses. Talk to a faculty member in the department to find out which are the most important and likely to help your chances for admission if in doubt. Let’s be practical. You may love a field, but if you don’t excel in it, a graduate degree is likely a poor choice. Poor grades will not earn you a spot in grad school. Poor grades in a given field in college often predict poor grades in graduate school – and are often a sign of a lack of interest in the field.