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ABOUT THIS PAGE

It is a Sunday afternoon and your day started off great — the kids slept in past 7 am, the coffee was strong, and the pajamas were cozy. You have already gone grocery shopping for the week and your house is finally at some level of organization. You are just starting to feel relaxed, and then suddenly… you remember. It is Sunday afternoon and you have to be at the office tomorrow morning. The calm feeling subsides, and you start to feel a sense of dread.

Maybe you do not completely dislike your current career, but rather, you have been working the same job for over ten years and feel ready for a change — or maybe your job provides enough variety, but you still do not feel a sense of fulfillment from your day to day tasks. Whatever the reason is for wanting a change of careers, just know that you are not alone.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that the average American changes careers 10 to 15 times over a 27 year stretch — from the time he or she starts working at the age of 19 to the time he or she becomes “settled” into career mode at the age of 46. 

Switching careers is completely normal, and sometimes, completely necessary as your passions and skills grow and change. You may be daunted by the idea of changing paths mid-career, but the path ahead can be relatively straightforward and is certainly worth the effort. This guide is designed to be a comprehensive overview of graduate school, why it matters, and how it will be helpful in your journey toward a new career.


HOW A GRADUATE DEGREE CAN LAUNCH YOUR NEXT CAREER MOVE

Switching careers is a big jump, and typically one that requires you to learn a new knowledge base and skill set. For example, educators may have a strong talent for lesson planning and classroom management, but if they would like to switch careers and become digital scientists, then they are going to have to go back to school to learn about computer science and digital network management. While soft skills like strong communication and attention to detail are important in all fields, changing careers often requires learning the hard skills specific to that industry. You do not always need a new degree to change careers, however there are several additional benefits of having a graduate degree:

  1. You demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning. Going back to school shows employers how you have personally invested in yourself and have the recent, relevant knowledge that is needed. It also reflects your ability to rise above challenges and create opportunities.
  2. You increase your salary and benefit options. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the average bachelor’s degree earned a median salary of $59,124 per year, while a master’s degree earned $69,732. Furthermore, a master’s degree increases your credibility, which gives you the opportunity to leverage your job opportunities and earn an appealing benefits package.
  3. You become networked into a new field. Not only will you meet colleagues and professors while in school, but you will most likely be required to complete an internship which will continue to help you create the recognition and credibility required in a competitive job market.

Across fields, the average master’s degree holder earns 18% more than a bachelor's degree holder.

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THE GRAD SCHOOL DECISION TREE FOR CAREER CHANGERS

There are several questions to consider before going back to school. This decision tree was created to help you determine if and when to consider a graduate degree to launch into a new career.

DOWNLOAD THE GUIDE!


THE CAREER CHANGER'S GUIDE TO GRADUATE SCHOOL

MYTHS ABOUT GOING BACK TO GRADUATE SCHOOL

If you have been out of college for at least a few years or more, you may not know the latest facts when it comes to heading back to school and embarking upon a graduate study program. There are several common myths related to graduate school — about time management, affordability, life stages, or your work situation — so it’s important to do the research and separate fact from fiction.

 

01

MYTH: THERE IS NO POINT IN GOING BACK TO GRADUATE SCHOOL NOW THAT I AM CERTAIN AGE

Reality: The average graduate student is 33 years old, and 22 percent of graduate students are 40 or older. Rather than thinking it’s too late to pursue something that matters to you, think of graduate school as a way to broaden your knowledge, strengthen your skill set, and grow towards your full potential.

02

MYTH: I CAN’T GO TO GRADUATE SCHOOL AND KEEP A FULL-TIME JOB

Reality: There are a number of things that could be scheduled within a day, but the reality is that you ultimately decide how best to manage your time.

In 2011, the United States Census Bureau reported that of the 4.1 million graduate students, 82 percent were employed. In this same dataset, the Census Bureau noted that nearly half of the graduate students surveyed worked full-time, year-round. Of the graduate students who only worked part-time, 68 percent worked over 26 weeks per year, many of them working more than 20 hours a week. For more information on this data, please view the figure to the right.

03

MYTH: MY WORK EXPERIENCE COMES FROM AN UNRELATED FIELD SO IT IS NOT RELEVANT TOWARDS MY GRADUATE EDUCATION

Reality: Your work experience has contributed powerfully to your soft skills and professional development, it taught you how to communicate with colleagues, prioritize tasks, make deadlines, and work in a detailed way. Graduate schools typically prefer students with diverse backgrounds and work experience because it contributes to well-rounded classroom discussions. For instance, at Kent State University, we appreciate graduate students who have professional work experience because they can use the skills they have learned in their previous careers to be hard-working graduate students.

04

MYTH: GRADUATE SCHOOL IS A FINANCIAL SETBACK AND I WON’T BE ABLE TO RECOVER

Reality: Graduate school is more of an investment and less of a setback. And while you may believe you can not afford to go back to school, the reality is that you can not afford not to go back to school — the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports an average $12,00 annual difference in salary between those with a bachelor’s degree and those who went back to school for a master’s degree.

In 2013, the median annual wage for full-time workers ages 25 and over whose highest level of education was a master’s degree was $68,000, compared with $56,000 for those whose highest level was a bachelor’s degree — a $12,000 a year wage premium.” 

(bls.org)

05

MYTH: I DON’T HAVE AN UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE THAT IS RELATED TO MY DESIRED MASTER’S DEGREE.

Reality: Choosing your undergraduate major can feel very significant, but evidence suggests that your college major does not really determine your career field, job prospects, or ability to transition fields for your master’s degree. According to research done by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2012, just 27% of workers with a college degree were working in jobs that were closely related to their major.

In the same way that employers aren’t picky about your undergraduate background, graduate programs are much more interested in whether you will be a good fit for the program in terms of passion, interests, and soft skills learned in previous professional positions than in your major at the undergraduate level.

06

MYTH: COMPLETING A GRADUATE PROGRAM WILL TAKE A LONG TIME AND DELAY MY CAREER CHANGE EVEN FURTHER

Reality: Going back to graduate school first is the prudent and patient approach. When comparing 300 nationally recognized universities, US News found a 237 percent increase in tuition rates for in-state public universities over the past 20 years, and standard costs of living are also on the rise. Most graduate degrees offer a significant increase in salary potential, so it is best to go back to school before tuition increases further. Otherwise you will not only be paying more for the same degree, you will also be missing out on years of potentially increased income due to your graduate degree.

You don’t want to launch into a new career, survive for a couple of years, and then realize that you’ll need further schooling to get the position or promotion you’re looking for. Grad school should be prioritized at the beginning of your career change in order to maximize the value of your degree.

07

MYTH: I WILL HAVE TO TAKE A STANDARDIZED TEST NO MATTER WHAT GRADUATE PROGRAM I CHOOSE

Reality: There are graduate programs that require you to take either the GRE or GMAT, but not all programs require standardized tests. Even if you must take an exam, there are several resources across the internet to help prepare you for success.

GET IN TOUCH! 

OUR CAREER CENTER IS READY TO ASSIST YOU

ADVANCED TIPS TO PREPARE FOR APPLYING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL: A CLOSER LOOK AT TEST-TAKING AND FINANCIAL AID

 UNDERSTAND THE GRE

The GRE is designed to reflect your potential success in graduate school by assessing your fundamental skills in the following areas: quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and analytical writing. The test is supported by research collected over 60 years and has earned credibility for “assessing ability and predicting performance.”

Even if it has been a number of years since you have taken a test, there is no need to panic because the GRE is designed to assess the skills you have already been using in your field for a number of years. For example, critical thinking and realistic problem solving are tools required on a day-to-day basis — applying these skills towards a test should only require a sufficient amount of time and strategic preparation.

TOOLS AND RESOURCES FOR THE GRE

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Maggoosh provides a number of resources for GRE test-takers, including day-by-day study plans, test tips, practice tests, and a blog full of additional GRE information.

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Explore GRE tools and tips designed by the creators of the test. ETS.org should be your go-to resource for any official information regarding the GRE.

 

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Manhattan Prep is a collection of practice tests designed to create a true GRE experience and provide a customized experience — complete with test results and explanations for wrong answers.

Of the 412 unique combinations* of programs offered at Kent State University, only 132 require the GRE as an admissions requirement — that’s less than 50% of our programs! And while we don’t require the GRE for all programs, approximately 45% of all applicants choose to submit their GRE scores.

*Note: The Unique combinations account for all of the possible combinations of degree and concentration. For example, one program may have three optional concentrations. In this case, the program plus the concentration equals four unique programs.

 

 

UNDERSTAND FINANCIAL AID OPPORTUNITIES

According to New America’s analysis of the U.S. Department of Education’s data, the median of combined undergraduate and graduate student loan debt in 2012 was $57,600. This number is not meant to deter you from exploring federal aid, but rather, it should inspire you to keep your debt at a minimum and explore other creative ways to help fund your graduate degree.

Work for the college or university that you would like to attend — More often than not, a university will offer tuition discounts to their employees. This is an excellent opportunity to transition from current career and apply your soft skills towards a new setting — like admissions, developments, human resources, or other institutional offices.

Enroll in a graduate program that offers online, part-time, or evening classes — You can still work full-time, support your family, and go to school. Find a transition-career that keeps you satisfied while you work towards something greater.

Apply for either a teaching assistantship or research assistantship — Assistantships are a great way to begin networking with the faculty and staff at your university while also earning money and diving deeper into your new area of study.

Apply for a paid internship — As you begin searching for the best internship opportunity, consider an internship that offers an hourly wage while you work and learn.

In addition to these work-study scenarios, there are also a number of scholarships and financial aid opportunities available to graduate students. Graduate school doesn’t have to equate to debt — explore your options online and get in touch with your university’s financial aid and graduate school advisors.

 

TOOLS AND RESOURCES FOR FINANCIAL AID

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A complete brochure designed by Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S Department of Education, that offers resources and information regarding the financial aid opportunities available for graduate students.

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A database sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor; filter through 7,500+ scholarship, fellowship, grant, and financial aid opportunities.

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Federal Aid is not your only option for financing graduate school — use this tool as a resource for exploring the options available for receiving “free money” (i.e. graduate school scholarships).

Kent State University offers a complete database to help you filter through scholarships created specifically for graduate students.

GO TO DATABASE

TOP GRADUATE PROGRAMS FOR CAREER CHANGERS

There are 50 different master’s degrees offered at Kent State University. While there are several degree options for graduate students interested in changing careers, we have compiled a brief list of degree opportunities at Kent State that are best suited for changing careers and increasing potential job opportunities.

 

GRADUATE DEGREES AT KENT UNIVERSITY

BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION (M.B.A)

About Kent’s Program: The Master of Business Administration degree prepares students for responsible leadership positions in public, private and nonprofit organizations. Regardless of their undergraduate education, students will find a challenging program designed to meet their specific backgrounds and needs.

We offer 10 Industry Concentrations:
Accounting || Economics || Entrepreneurship || Fashion Design and Merchandising || Finance || Human Resource Management || Information Systems || International Business || Marketing || Supply Chain Management

Learn More

Is there an accelerated option for this program?
YES — also offered online* and on Kent’s campus
*Note: The online MBA is designed for part-time students and only allows optional concentrations in International Business and Supply Chain Management.

Are test scores required in my application?
GMAT or GRE scores required

Note: Kent State asks that all applicants have at least five years experience in a responsible position; however, this does not mean that you must have a background in business to apply.

According to the Muse, more that 50 percent of "incoming students at top tier business schools" claim to be interested in changing careers.

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Program Learning Outcomes:

  1. Use critical thinking skills to apply analytical models and concepts to make business decisions.
  2. Present business knowledge and decisions individually and as a team.
  3. Understand the ethical and legal implications of business decisions.
  4. Understand the impact of globalization of business decisions.

COMMUNICATION STUDIES (M.A.)

About Kent’s Program: The Master of Arts degree in Communication Studies is intended to provide a broad spectrum of knowledge about human communication in various social contexts, and the ways in which information is produced and processed. Curriculum focus is on the social and behavioral study of communication theory and research, and students may choose to specialize in global, health, interpersonal, and/or mediated/mass communication. The program prepares individuals to pursue a doctorate degree, as well as for non-academic careers in which a broad understanding of communication theory and research is desirable.

Learn More

Are test scores required in my application?
GRE scores are required only for applicants seeking graduate assistantship.

What are some job titles that come with this degree?
Some job titles include: Social Media Director, Public Relations Director, Marketing Communications Director, Senior Copywriter, or Account Supervisor.

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Program Learning Outcomes:

1. Read, critique, and engage in theory-based research involving a broad spectrum of topics in human communication.

2. Understand and master appropriate methodological skills for the study of human communication and apply them to relevant and shifting real-world contexts that often include newer communication technologies.

3. Utilize theory-based and state-of-the-art knowledge to stimulate and improve communication processes in educational, business, and nonprofit environments.

KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT (M.S.)

About Kent’s Program: The Master of Science degree in Knowledge Management prepares professionals to serve as leaders in all types of organizations who can assess and evaluate organizations on knowledge management principles, including culture, learning, communities, and maturity. Graduates will be able to build strategy for effective knowledge management for organizations.

Knowledge Management Industries:
Health Care || Biotechnology || Aerospace || Financial Services || Engineering || Manufacturing || Energy Production || Government

Learn More

Is there an accelerated option for this program?
No — this program is only offered online, which is still great for maximum flexibility.

Are test scores required in my application?
GRE scores are only required if total GPA is below 3.0 in highest completed degree.

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Program Learning Outcomes:

1. Identify and apply principles of knowledge management in all types of organizations.

2. Assess and evaluate organizations on knowledge management principles including, culture, learning, communities, and maturity.

3. Build a strategy for effective knowledge management for individual organizations.

 

USER EXPERIENCE DESIGN (M.S.)

About Kent’s Program: The Master of Science degree in User Experience Design prepares students for careers that require them to apply a solid understanding of usability, content strategy, information architecture, and user research.

The user experience designer engages in a variety of design activities that help produce aesthetic interfaces and help organizations meet business goals. User experience design addresses the structural, informational, psychological, and emotional aspects of what makes a successful user interface, whether it is Web, mobile, tablet, or any other device.

Learn More

Is there an accelerated option for this program?
No — this program is only offered online, which is still great for maximum flexibility.

Are test scores required in my application?
GRE scores required

What are some job titles that come with this degree? Some job titles include: Visual Designer, UX Designer, Interaction Designer, User Researcher, Information Architect, and Usability analyst.

An article by Nielson Norman Group states that in the field of UX Design, 52 percent of professionals have a master’s degree.

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Program Learning Outcomes:

1. Design and conduct research in a variety of ways necessary to understand users, stakeholders, and competitors.

2. Apply principles of information architecture and content strategy to web and mobile design problems.

3. Create and evaluate structures to support information and content organization.

4. Test and critique existing designs and prototypes by employing usability testing methods.

5. Communicate design ideas in a variety of ways to design teams, stakeholders, and developers.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION (M.A.T)

About Kent’s Program: The Master of Arts in Teaching degree in Early Childhood Education is for qualified students who possess at least a baccalaureate in a discipline other than teacher education. This program leads to Ohio licensure for teaching children age three through grade three. Students have intensive, supervised field experiences in pre-school, kindergarten, and primary programs, including those in urban/diverse settings.

Note: Kent State also offers an MAT in Secondary Education, with a focus in things like Art, Chemistry, Dance, Earth Science, English/Language Arts, French, Health, Mathematics, Music, Social Studies, and more!

Learn More

Is there an accelerated option for this program?
No — this degree program requires 18 months of full-time study, which begins in June of odd numbered years.

Are test scores required in my application?
GRE scores required

Mashable, an international media website, worked
with the University of Phoenix to report:

"34 percent of K-12 teachers are career changers, with 36 percent of those coming from a business background. Why the change? One-third (36 percent) say that they had always wanted to pursue a career in teaching, while three in 10 (31 percent) were simply looking for a change of pace."

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Program Learning Outcomes:

1. Co-construct curriculum as a co-worker with learners and others (parents, families, colleagues, and community members) to make sound decisions for learning and teaching experiences, as opposed to being passive receivers of prescribed curriculum.

2. Synthesize conceptual understandings of children, theory, content, technology, and socio-cultural contexts into meaningful activities and opportunities for learning with all students from pre-kindergarten to grade three.

3. Engage in the habit of self-assessment in order to continually uncover unknown possibilities in children’s learning, classroom practice, educational theory, and one’s own teaching identity in the local and global context.

4. Become committed to the children and their learning, the families, and the local community while having an awareness of the global context.

5. Engage in continuous self-improvement and lifelong learning.

6. Apply skills, knowledge, and dispositions to challenge “questionable” policies that limit opportunities for all children.

7. Utilize research and theory to develop varied and effective pedagogies and assessments that will positively impact all students’ learning (learning and teaching is a transdisciplinary practice).

8. Advocate as ethical leaders and moral agents striving for social justice.

9. Acknowledge and practice multiple, multi-ethnic, multicultural, multiracial, multi-social and -economic, and multilingual perspectives in a global society.

DIGITAL SCIENCES (M.D.S)

About Kent’s Program: The Master of Digital Sciences degree is designed to augment a student's skill set, opening the door to new career opportunities for students from diverse undergraduate backgrounds. Introductory courses expose students to graduate topics outside their undergraduate field, and six concentrations allow them to study one area in more depth. Electives provide an opportunity for customization, and the degree culminates with either an individual capstone project or a formal thesis.

We offer 6 Industry Concentrations:
Data Science || Digital Systems Management || Digital Systems Software Development || Digital Systems Telecommunication Networks || Digital Systems Training Technology || Enterprise Architecture

Learn More

Is there an accelerated option for this program?
No — this program is fully offered on Kent’s campus.

Are test scores required in my application?
GRE scores will be one of the factors considered in the admission process. A GRE composite score of 290 and above is preferred. The GRE may be waived if you have earned a master’s or higher degrees from an accredited U.S. institution or have three or more years of relevant, full-time work experience.

Note: Kent State’s Master of Digital Science degree program has accepted professionals from a wide variety of industry backgrounds, including nursing, political science, business, administration, and project management.

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Program Learning Outcomes:

  1. Augment their professional preparation with material from areas of digital sciences outside their former college and professional boundaries.

  2. Demonstrate increased breadth in digital sciences outside their former college and professional boundaries. Depending on the courses chosen, they will be able to demonstrate basic familiarity with enterprise architecture, data science, software development, telecommunication networks, globalization and technology strategy, and instructional design.
  3. Demonstrate increased depth in one area of digital
    sciences.

HEALTH INFORMATICS

About Kent’s Program: The Master of Science degree in Health Informatics prepares graduates for careers in managerial, analytical, consultative, and executive roles working with healthcare systems and clinicians.

Health informatics is the science of evaluating, implementing and utilizing technology to manage all information related to the patient care delivery process: clinical, financial, technological, and enterprise-wide.

The informatics field also draws contributions from computer science, the clinical sciences, social and organizational influences, and business practices.

Learn More

Is there an accelerated option for this program?
No — this program is fully offered on Kent’s campus.

Are test scores required in my application?
GRE scores are required only for students who have a GPA below 3.0 in highest completed degree.

What are some job titles that come with this degree?
Some job titles include: Health Informatic Consultant, Chief Medical Information Officer, Electronic Medical Record Keeper, and Healthcare IT Project Manager.

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Program Learning Outcomes:

1. Reconcile the needs of clinical and non-clinical users of health information systems utilizing workflow analysis, systems analysis, and project management principles.

2. Analyze collected data of health information systems, utilizing principles of data mining, statistics, and clinical analytics.

3. Manage the implementation of health information systems in multiple health care venues using principles of organizational dynamics and change management.

4. Facilitate communication between clinical and non-clinical users of health information systems.

5. Successfully obtain the credential of Certified Associate in Health Information Systems.

 

OTHER IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

There are a variety of industries that welcome career changers, so don’t limit yourself to just one list of opportunities. For example — psychology and social work are two areas where career changers love to work, so feel free to explore those options as well. Ultimately, the most important factors to consider throughout your career change are your passions and sense of purpose. What goals do you want to work towards for the rest of your life? Who do you want to inspire? Chase those possibilities.

 

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND NEXT STEPS

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At Kent State University, we transform lives and communities through the power of discovery, learning, and creative expression in an inclusive environment. To learn more about how we fuel our everyday mission, visit our blog, Flash Forward, where we share stories and provide resources to help you make an informed decision regarding graduate school.

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READY FOR YOUR NEXT CAREER?

Speak with a Kent State University Graduate Studies Coordinator. Read additional information and explore links to resources that may be of particular use to faculty and staff in the recruitment, admission, teaching, mentoring, and advising of our graduate students.

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Pursue Your Passion With Purpose. Take the next step, find your program, and learn how Kent State University changes lives.

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