Deciding to enroll in a graduate or professional degree program is one of the most important decisions a student will make in the course of their professional career. However, embarking upon graduate study before knowing what you want to do could be a mistake. If you decide to pursue graduate study, you will be making a major commitment of time and money.  

Students interested in knowing more about graduate school are encouraged to meet with the Environmental Studies Academic Coordinator (Bren 4312B) or Academic Advisor (Bren 4313). Additionally, UCSB Career Services offers students resources on applying and choosing a graduate school. 


Deciding to enroll in a graduate or professional degree program is one of the most important decisions you will make in the course of your professional career. However, embarking upon graduate study before you know what you want to do could be a mistake. If you decide to pursue graduate study, you will be making a major commitment of time and money.

Some graduate degrees are academic and others are professional in orientation. Academic degrees focus on original research, whereas professional degrees stress practical application of knowledge required for practicing in the profession. Master's degrees may take one to three years to earn and generally require a thesis project. Doctorates generally take four more years to complete and require original research and completion of a dissertation. Those who intend to pursue doctorates may elect to earn a master's degree first, then proceed to select a different university, or somewhat different program of study, for their doctoral work.

For many fields, the master's may be the professional degree needed for employment; examples are the Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.), the Master of Social Work (M.S.W.), the Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.), the Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) as well as Teaching Credential programs. For other careers, the doctorate is necessary for practicing in the field; such degrees include the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), the Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.), and for university teaching in a specific discipline, the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).

What are some of the things you will need to consider as you decide whether' to pursue graduate study? For the majority of University of California alumni, graduate school is inevitable. However, answering the question of when you should pursue that advanced degree may be more important than what advanced degree to pursue. More and more students are opting for graduate school immediately after their bachelors degree in hopes of riding out a sluggish economy or with the idea that potential employers will value their advanced degrees. To some, it is one way of delaying the job search and upgrading credentials.

While there is some truth to that particular rationale, don't forget to consider that the average age of graduate students nationwide is 34. What this means is the number of experienced workers going back for graduate education is increasing and with their applications comes life learning that the recent graduate doesn't have. Work experience prior to graduate study is often required in some degree programs. The catalogs from individual programs will usually by specific about their preferences.
It stands to reason with more people looking at graduate school, the competition will be greater and selection committees will use more clearly defined criteria to weed out the shoppers and accept only applicants who have demonstrated the intellectual and emotional commitment to pursue graduate level work. If you are considering the graduate school option, there are a few questions you will need to ask yourself and some realities you will need to confront in order to maximize your chances of acceptance into a program.

The answers to the following questions will help you decide if the timing is right for you to go to graduate school right after your bachelors degree or look at some of the other options that are available to you.

  1. Do you have a clearly defined career goal that requires an advanced degree for entry into the profession? 
  2. Can you articulate your academic and professional reasons for going to graduate school? 
  3. Does your undergraduate record reflect your ability to do graduate level work? 
  4. Are you willing to incur the debt and delay earnings that continuing your education will involve?
  5. How far are you willing to relocate in order to go to a good program? Out of state? Out of the country? 
  6. Are you emotionally ready for one to three more years of academic work at a much more rigorous level than your undergraduate experience?

The decision to go to graduate school should not be done in haste and ideally will take about a year to make. Start toward the middle of your junior year, if not earlier. You should get advice from everyone you consider knowledgeable on the graduate school application process.

This list is only a sample of the various resources available online. Students should do their own research and meet with the Environmental Studies Academic Coordinator or Advisor for further questions.

Graduate School Directories <>
Includes both domestic and foreign environmental graduate programs.
May also search specific categories: environmental studies, science, education, engineering, management, or policy.

Peterson’s Graduate School and Program Search 
Search categories: environmental biology, sciences, education, engineering, design, policy and resource management, or occupational health.

American Universities <>

Penn State Institute of the Environment
Indexes a variety of additional directories

Graduate Guide <>
Search ‘environmental science’

Specific Environmental Interest Directories

Data Science <>

Environmental Journalism <>

Geospatial Science and Geographic Information Systems Master’s Degrees

Professional Science Masters Programs

Law <> or 

Programs in Canada <>

Additional Graduate School Resources

UCSB's Counseling and Career Services Graduate School Information 

UCSB Graduate Division <>

The Gevirtz Graduate School of Education <>

College of Letters and Science Advising 

Graduate School Examination Information:

US News & World Report: America's Best Graduate Schools 2005
On this site students can go to the section "rankings and more" and click on one of several categories: engineering, health, etc. Students can then look for the top graduate programs in each of these areas.

UC Berkeley Career Center: Exploring Graduate School <>
Info on: What is Graduate School? Is Graduate School for Me? How Do I Choose a School? 
Applying to Graduate School:  Timeline, Application & Transcripts, Statement, Letters of Recommendation, Testing.