Graduate students who are planning to go on to a specialized career or qualify for a certification in their field should pay attention to graduate school rankings when looking for a top program. For example, a teacher who wishes to become a principal or a business professional seeking to move into management will usually need to pursue a graduate degree and a degree from a high ranking program will be advantageous.

What is the purpose of Graduate School Rankings?

Some fields, notably medical fields, require graduate degrees to qualify for even an entry level position. Some of the more popular fields in which individuals pursue graduate degrees are education, business administration, and medicine. To assist students in making choices regarding which graduate school to attend, several bodies provide graduate school rankings. These rankings consider many factors that are useful to prospective students. For example, schools may be ranked according to the number of students who successfully find work upon completion of their program. Another factor might be the student to staff ratio, while still another factor could be the GRE score needed for admission. Depending on the type of program a student is considering, each of these factors might be more meaningful than another.

When using graduate school rankings to decide the best fit, a candidate must first identify what is most important to him/her. Then, elements of the program that are traditionally important to a specific field must be considered. For example, students pursuing a graduate degree in education would want to be sure the program included ample classroom experience and study with leading educational researchers.

Examples of Graduate School Rankings

There are several bodies that provide graduate school rankings for prospective students. Each of these bodies places a different importance on the characteristics they examine. One of the most well-known of these bodies is the US News and World Report. This system breaks schools down by type: business, education, engineering, and law are examples of the types of categories. After considering characteristics that would appeal to seekers of each degree program, they rate schools according to these characteristics. For example, Vanderbilt University (Peabody) is rated as the number one school for students seeking a graduate degree in education administration based on its performance on selected characteristics versus its peers. Another popular ranking system is Peterson's graduate school rankings. This system utilizes many of the same characteristics as US News and World Report, but offers users a chance to customize the characteristics they want to consider. For example, choosing a graduate degree in agricultural engineering close to one's home in the Midwest ranks South Dakota State University first. However, if the same program is sought after in the Southwest region, the University of Arkansas becomes the most favorable school. Finally, many specialized fields offer graduate school rankings based on criteria selected by professional organizations in that field. For example, students interested in pursuing a graduate degree in psychology would find the information aggregated by socialpsychology.org useful. This site considers information collected by the National Research Council and uses it to rank schools. According to this site, Stanford is currently ranked #1 for students pursuing a graduate degree in psychology.

For many individuals, graduate school is part of their career path. It is important to consider what program would best meet each individual's needs, and utilizing graduate school rankings is an excellent way to do so.

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