Pursuing graduate and professional school

Things to consider

The decision-making process should start with your personal interests and goals.

What kind of work do you hope to do in the future? Is a graduate degree required to do that work? If you’re not sure, this is a great time to do some career research or informational interviews.

You can also pursue graduate studies out of intellectual curiosity, a love of learning, and a desire to pursue independent research. Reflect on your values and what is most important to you.

Graduate studies can be a wonderful experience and open the door to many career opportunities, but it is important to understand where further studies will lead, and how to take advantage of the opportunity.

Graduate studies is not the only way to get a job. In most fields, it is also very possible to return to school after starting to work. So, don’t only consider if grad studies is right for you, but also consider when the right time is for you.

Research versus professional programs

Different types of graduate programs are structured with very different aims and will provide substantially different experiences. Some programs fall slightly between categories and can be structured in quite different ways at different institutions.

  • Research-based graduate programs
    These programs often operate as more in-depth training in a particular academic discipline, and are most likely to involve independent research, typically with a faculty member as your supervisor.
  • Professional programs
    These programs will typically involve preparing you to be accredited to practice in a particular professional field.

Applying to graduate school

Graduate programs differ in what is required to apply. Be sure to follow the instructions given by the specific program you are applying to. Here are some key tips to help you prepare to apply.

Prepare your application

Common components of a grad school application include a Curriculum Vitae (CV) or resume and a statement of intent or personal statement. Other documents may also be requested.

Just like a job search, your resume or Curriculum Vitae should be tailored to the graduate program you are applying for. Highlight the skills, achievements, and experiences that reflect your accomplishments and fit with the program.

If an application requires a personal statement or letter of intent, give yourself time to reflect, edit, and refine. This is the opportunity to share how you envision your professional career advancing into something substantial based upon past experiences. Be sure to tailor your statements for the different programs and schools you are applying to.

Research what standardized tests may be required for your application and the timelines for completing those.

Find a research supervisor, if applicable to your program

Find out if you are expected to identify a supervisor prior to the application process, or if you will select your supervisor after you have enrolled.

Your choice of supervisor can have a significant influence over the next few years of your academic journey. Look for someone whose research interests and philosophy align well with your own.

If possible, reach out to past students to find out what their experience was like working with a particular supervisor.

Asking for references

References are a crucial part of your application process. Academic references can come from past professors who have some knowledge of your academic work and performance. Professional references can come from someone who has supervised you in a work or volunteer context. If you know you will have a gap between degrees, it may be helpful to keep in contact with professors during this time.

When asking for a reference, ask well in advance, ideally 1 to 2 months. It is often helpful to specifically ask if someone can provide you with a strong and positive reference. Provide your reference with clear information about the deadline and process for submitting their document, as well as any supporting documents including your resume or Curriculum Vitae, statement of intent, and link to program website.

Be sure to thank someone for writing you a reference, and let them know the outcome of your application process.

Additional resources

  • GradSchools.com
    Read about what grad school is like and determine whether you should choose a master’s or doctorate.
  • Extended Learning at UBC
    Take language or professional development courses outside of a UBC degree in topics like intercultural communication, career coaching, and copyediting.
  • UBC Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
    Get news and information about upcoming events and deadlines related to graduate studies at UBC.

If you have questions

Contact the UBC Career Centre for any questions regarding the Launch Your Career in Canada event or career-related information.