Graduate School

Interested in going to graduate school?

Introduction to Graduate School

What type of Graduate Program is right for you?

Ph.D. - Doctoral Degree

Is the highest level of academic degree. Usually requires at least five to six years. If admitted, in most research universities you will get support. May yield a higher salary upon completion. Expected to do independent work.

Extensive coursework before being admitted as a Ph.D. candidate and set to work on independent research. You do not need a master’s degree to get your Ph.D., but some students may wish to get theirs before or after getting their Ph.D.

Master's Degree

A master’s degree is the first level of graduate study. Usually a graduate student might acquire this in about two years.

To earn a master’s degree you’ll usually need to take 36-54 units/credits of study. This is around 12-18 college semester courses depending on the degree/field.
Flexible options can be found for certain master’s degrees, including being able to join an online program.

Programs can have night/evening or weekend classes so that a student may work while in the program if they choose to. The time it takes to complete the program at this point will depend on how much of a workload the student may wish to take on, in both their job and the master's program.

Bridge to Doctorate

Designed for students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. and may benefit from earning an M.S. with extra mentoring and bridge-building to a Ph.D. program. Several institutions around the country host BD programs. Students typically have all their costs covered plus receive a stipend (~$30K is typical) for living expenses. They also are aided in making connections with a research mentor and often a separate Bridges mentor whose goal is to help them get into and succeed in a Ph.D.

What graduate schools should I look into?

Begin by researching graduate programs online. Some examples:

  • Browse US News Best Graduate Schools : This site provides insight about choosing a graduate program. Start by browsing best graduate schools that fit your interest and gain graduate school advice.
  • Browse ACS Planning for Graduate Work : Information on beginning the process to graduate school, choosing a graduate program and early graduate life.
  • Browse The Princeton Review : Find your dream school, college advice, and more information regarding graduate preparation.

Steps to Preparing For Graduate School

1. Research

Research is an essential component of doctoral and many master’s degree programs, having an undergraduate research experience will inform your decision to do graduate work. Research encompasses projects that are well-defined, stand a reasonable chance of completion in the available time, apply and develop an understanding of in-depth concepts, use a variety of instrumentation, br grounded in the primary chemical literature.

  • Most important, start research early! Talk to your faculty about conducting independent research. Browse CI’s Chemistry Faculty and Staff.
    • CI offers an Independent Research course, CHEM 494, consent of instructor provides student credit for independent lab research.
  • Apply to REUs (Research Experience for Undergraduates).
    • What is an REU? The NSF (National Science Foundation) funds a large number of research opportunities for undergraduate students through its REU Sites program. An REU site consists of a group of ten or so undergraduates who work in the research programs of the host institution. NSF REU programs are fantastic way to gain experience. Get paid to conduct research over the summer! Check out the NSF REU Site.
    • *Note - open dates and deadlines vary from program

As an undergraduate student, conducting research involves preparing comprehensive written reports, oral presentations, poster presentations, and researching journal articles in order to obtain valuable opportunities presenting at scientific conferences.

*See ‘Conferences - how do I attend a conference?’ section below to learn more about how to attend*

2. Courses

Chemistry is a broad and expanding field. Graduate programs will expect that you have a solid understanding of sub disciplines such as analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, organic and physical chemistry. See Certificate in Chemistry to get a better sense of what Lower division and Upper division courses are offered and required.

3. Conferences - How do I attend a conference?

Best approach: ask your faculty! Let them know you’re interested. If you’re doing research, ask your research mentor when you might be ready to present research at a conference.

4. Apply to LSAMP

What is LSAMP?: The program focuses on strengthening the skills of students and continues to support them as they apply to graduate programs.

*Topics that are covered include: Information sessions about graduate school, graduate student panels, finding paid summer research opportunities.

Check out more on LSAMP Resources.

Another recommendation is to pursue opportunities to develop skills in your course, during co-curricular activities, and as an undergraduate researcher.

For example: Professional Skills Require

Operating SkillsPersonal EffectivenessInterpersonal Skills
  • Planning and Organizing
  • Leadership and Providing Direction
  • Taking initiative
  • Attention to detail
  • Flexibility
  • Communication
  • Working in teams

To successfully advance to a career in the chemical sciences, enhancing technical and professional skills are key components.

Worked on by:
Melissa Soriano
Oscar Estrada

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