Muncie, Indiana – Believe it or not, where you go to graduate school matters much more than where you go to undergrad. This is because the two educational institutions serve very different purposes; an undergraduate college or university is designed to teach young people how to become independent adults and critical thinkers, and because of that it has little bearing on your future career, whether you choose to go to college in a small town, a big city, or even abroad. Choosing your undergraduate institution is all about finding a school to meet your needs, which can range from a desire to see the world to a desire to stay close to home.
Graduate school, however, is all about location. Once you start looking at graduate-level degrees, particularly professional degrees like nursing degrees or MBAs, you find that the curriculums quickly become standardized. Yes, some programs have better instructors or bigger laboratories, but the purpose of a graduate-level degree program is to teach you a specific set of skills that will be useful to your career, and for the most part, the skills you learn from one program to the next will be roughly identical.
That’s why the location is so important. Since graduate school is about helping you advance in your chosen career, you need to choose a graduate school that is in an area where you want to live your life. Your classmates in your graduate school courses will become your colleagues and friends; the faculty will be able to introduce you to influential people in the community. Many graduate programs are directly linked with local businesses and places of employment. There’s a good reason people call Master’s degrees “professional” degrees; it’s because the goal of graduate school is to prepare you for the next level in your profession.
There are many graduate programs right here in Muncie, including programs at Harrison College and Ball State University. However, before you jump into a graduate degree, take some time to think critically. If you are planning a move in the next five years, whether to support a partner’s career, move closer to family, or for any other reason, it might be to your advantage to wait and pursue your graduate degree once you are established in your new city.
Another good reason to think critically about a graduate program’s location has to do with licensing and state regulations. Many professional programs, from law to teaching to medicine, only enable the graduate to find work in a specific state. If you earn a professional degree in one state but then move, you find yourself in need of a time-consuming and costly re-certification.
Here’s an example of how choosing the right graduate school location can make or break your career: imagine two young people who have completed their undergraduate education and now want to pursue nursing careers. Person A hopes to save money by living at home with her parents and enrolling in a local program, but at the end of her degree program discovers that she is now geographically limited to her small hometown. Person B knows that she wants to live in Philadelphia for the next several years, so she decides to move straight to Philadelphia, finds a temporary job so she can support herself, and begins looking into accelerated nursing programs in PA. When her degree is complete, she is set up to begin working in her dream city.
When you are thinking about your own graduate degree, make sure to factor location into your planning. Choosing the degree program that is closest to where you live now may not be the smartest choice for your future.