The Graduate School Pathway
Students enter graduate school through a few different pathways, Keiffer said. First, there are the “straight-throughs,” those who enter graduate school immediately after earning an undergraduate degree. That’s the path that Keiffer took when he earned his MBA from HBU in 1997, the year after completing his BBA in Management. Then there are the “returners” who enter graduate school after spending some time in the workforce. Both groups have advantages and drawbacks, Keiffer said. Students who are not far removed from their collegiate study habits can have an easy transition into continuing their education with graduate school. Those who have spent time in the workforce, however, generally have an easier time understanding and applying the study material in the context of real-world situations. “Many individuals who have work experience are able to bring a wealth of information back into the classroom,” Keiffer said. “And the ‘straight-throughs’ can provide idealistic and original perspectives as well. They can all learn from each other.”
For some, going on for a master’s is just the logical next step. Master’s in Education student Christian Guzman decided quickly to go straight through while it was most expedient. “I just wanted to get my bachelor’s originally,” he said. “I never thought I would be working on my master’s.”
For Michael Leanes, pursuing a Master’s in Fine Arts with a specialization in Sculpture has allowed him to perfect his skills, which he uses to design and create wood and metal furniture for his own company. “The master’s program gave me the time to develop and craft my own style,” he said.
The graduate school route can be a continuation of undergraduate studies, or it can be a transition into another area. For example, a Biblical Studies undergraduate major who later enters the Master of Divinity program will be deepening his grasp and specific knowledge of a similar subject area. A Biblical Studies undergraduate major who later enters the Master of Science in Human Resources Management program, however, will have switched to another vocational specialty and will become marketable for that field. Although graduate programs like an MBA require leveling courses for students without an undergraduate background in the field, the graduate degree is an excellent tract into one’s chosen field.
Tyler Helaire pursued a Master’s in Human Resources Management to help him achieve his career goals. “It was always a plan to do more than just my undergraduate,” he said. “I just wanted to take it as far as I could go until I feel like I’m where I want to be in life.”
Whether they are looking to advance in a chosen field, or to change careers, students who are entering a graduate degree program are by nature more purposeful about their degree selection. “The biggest difference between undergraduate and graduate applicants is that nobody really expects an undergraduate applicant to know what he wants to do with his life,” Abraham said. “Graduate applicants are expected to know why they want the degree and how they want to use it. Most graduate programs want to know why you want in the specific program, and generally programs are harder to get into at the graduate level.”
Keiffer echoes that graduate school requires a special commitment, from admissions requirements through coursework. “An advanced degree takes a subject area to a specialized, specific level. Where one class might cover multiple topics at the undergraduate level, each class at the graduate level might cover one of those topics,” he said. “The volume of reading, work and research goes up considerably. It really is the idea of leaving no stone unturned.”