Graduate School Advice for Your Major/Department
These links provide graduate school suggestions from Goshen College professors in various departments.
- Bible, religion, and philosophy
- Biological sciences
- Business, accounting, and economics
- Foreign languages
- Political science
- Sociology/Anthropology and social work
Bible, religion, and philosophy
In Bible, religion and philosophy, there are two basic graduate school tracks. These tracks have distinctive expectations and graduate admission requirements.
The seminary prepares persons for leadership in church-related vocations (typically pastoral ministry, but also other forms of church administration, counseling and lay leadership). Most seminaries have programs in pastoral ministry; counseling ministry; biblical theological studies; or peace studies. There are denominational seminaries (Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary, etc.) and nondenominational seminaries (Gordon-Conwell, Ashland Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Seminary, etc.).
Some seminaries expect applicants to have a college major in Bible and/or religion. Most seminaries expect a basic knowledge of New Testament Greek.
Seminaries grant a Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.), Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and Master of Arts (M.A.) degrees. M.Div. degrees require three years of study, but some other degrees are possible in one- or two-year periods. Doctor of Ministry degrees are also available from some seminaries for those interested in doing doctoral work in an area of study more directly linked to pastoral concerns.
The graduate school
Graduate schools expect a solid background in your chosen field of study. A major in religion or theology with a basic introduction to philosophic studies is preferred, but a minor is often accepted. A primary and a secondary foreign language are desired for admission and required for completion of the degree.
The graduate school in theology or religion provides a master’s degree (M.A.) or a doctorate in philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. The European Ph.D. is primarily an independent study/research degree. The American Ph.D. involves substantial course work, followed by dissertation research on a related topic. Both programs involve comprehensive examinations that must be passed. United States graduate degrees in religion usually require two years of doctoral coursework (after you already have a master’s degree in hand) and then about two to three years for writing exams and completing the dissertation.
Professional graduate programs
Students interested in professional programs in areas such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, physical therapy or medical technology can obtain information about post baccalaureate options from their advisors. There are sections in the advising handbook about physical therapy and medical technology as well.
In the case of medicine, interested students should ask for a copy of the Goshen College Pre-Medical Guide. This guide also provides some information about physician’s assistants, physical therapy and dentistry. The pre-med club is an additional source of information for students interested in the field of medicine.
Nonprofessional graduate programs
General course requirements:
The following information applies to students interested in a regular, nonprofessional graduate program in the biological sciences. The minimal prerequisites for admission into most biology related graduate programs would be:
- General Chemistry – two semesters
- Organic Chemistry – two semesters
- Physics – two semesters (sometimes only one is needed)
- Calculus – two semesters are usually required
- Thermodynamics or Physical Chemistry – often required
- Principles of Biology – two semesters
Other recommended courses
In addition, we recommend the following courses for everyone considering graduate school in the biological sciences:
- Biology Research Seminar
- Microbial Biology
Depending on a person’s interest, additional courses would be desirable. If someone is interested in molecular biology, biochemistry or developmental biology, the following courses would be very helpful:
- Cell Biology and/or Biochemistry
- Developmental Vertebrate Biology
- Analytical Chemistry
Field biology and related courses
Students interested in environmental, field or plant biology should consider some of the following courses:
- General Zoology and/or General Entomology
- Botany of Seed Plants and/or Plant Kingdom
- Marine Biology
- General Ecology
- Field Experience in Environmental Education
- Internship work at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center
- Au Sable courses (See college catalog.)
Your advisor can help you in selecting the courses that would be most appropriate for your specific interests.
Along with selecting appropriate course work, students interested in biology related graduate programs should consider various ways of learning about research in addition to the Biology Research Seminar, which has already been mentioned. These opportunities allow students to test their interests, as well as improve their skills and add to the strength of their résumé.
- Participation in research on campus or at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center.
- Participation in the PEW summer research program.
- Participation in one of the undergraduate summer research programs offered at many universities. These are 8-10 week paid positions. Check with the biology department for more information.
Taking the GRE
Before applying to graduate school, it is necessary to take the GRE. It would be advisable to review material from basic courses before doing this.
Paying for biology graduate education
Well qualified students have numerous opportunities to receive financial support for their nonprofessional graduate education such as fellowships, teaching assistantships and research assistantships. This is especially true in Ph.D. programs. Tuition and fees are usually waived in addition to the financial support. Income is usually enough to pay living expenses so that nonprofessional graduate programs in the sciences can usually be completed debt free.
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Business, accounting, and economics
Business department majors encounter a variety of graduate programs. The two most popular advanced degrees for department graduates have been the Masters in Business Administration (M.B.A.) and the M.A. or Ph.D. in economics. Increasingly, accounting students are completing an M.S. in Accounting, in Tax, or in a similar field. BIS majors may complete the Masters in Information Systems (M.I.S.) or a similar degree. Alternatively, the MBA degree at many universities allows a concentration in accounting, finance, IS, etc. instead of the M.S. in a specific field.
Students should consult with appropriate department faculty by the end of their junior year for information regarding graduate school. Graduates typically enter M.B.A. programs after several years of work experience, but department faculty can help plan an appropriate set of courses and help determine the most appropriate time to take the Graduate Management Apptitude Test (G.M.A.T.) Accounting majors seeking employment in public accounting should plan with their advisors whether to use undergraduate or graduate credits to meet the requirement of 150 hours credit to sit for the C.P.A. exam.
Students interested in graduate school programs in economics are advised of the substantial formal math requirements (beyond those required for graduation from GC) for successful entry in graduate programs. Students interested in graduate programs in economics should take the G.R.E. during their senior year.
Although top quality programs in these areas are very competitive, GC graduates have done well in gaining admission and qualifying for financial aid (scholarships, fellowships and teaching or research assistantships. Teaching assistantships are primarily received by students enrolling in PhD programs).
Department faculty can provide names of former students who are currently enrolled in graduate programs or recent graduates. Past graduates have been very helpful in informing current students about their personal experiences.
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Students who are interested in graduate programs in communication or a related field should speak with their adviser as a first step. The department maintains a list of recommended colleges and universities that offer advanced degrees in communication and journalism.
The department also can direct students to sources in other fields that have been of interest to recent communication graduates, including counseling, law, library science, religion and social work. As the variety of pursuits suggests, in many cases graduate-level programs do not require an undergraduate major in the same field.
The process of applying for graduate school is discussed as part of Senior Seminar. Depending on the intended school, applicants should plan to take the general-aptitude part of the GRE or other more specialized examinations such as the LSAT.
For more information, see the International Communication Association (www.icahdq.org), the National Communication Association (www.natcom.org) and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (www.aejmc.org).
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For GC graduates who have completed requirements for teacher certification:
Most graduates will likely begin teaching before beginning graduate school. Several years of practical experience in a classroom will make your graduate work more meaningful.
States vary greatly in requirements for further study for teachers beyond the bachelor’s degree. Indiana requires teachers licensed under Rules 46/47 to complete six hours of course work every five years to renew the state teaching license; that course work may be at graduate or undergraduate levels, but must be in education or the subject matter for which the teacher is licensed to teach. Because salary schedules in most school systems are based on the amount of graduate work completed, it is often to the teacher’s benefit to do graduate work.
Teachers licensed under Rules 2002 have the option of completing coursework, workships and other various staff development opportunities to renew their license under a points system. Information about the points system will be available from the school system from which you are employed. A few states require teachers to complete a master’s degree to move from the initial teaching license to a more permanent license.
For those who have not completed certification requirements at GC:
Some universities offer graduate programs that include the option to complete teaching certification requirements along with a master’s degree program. Those programs usually take more than one year to complete. The teacher education office does not have a listing of universities offering such programs; interested students will need to search the library or other sources for that information.
Graduate study in English can be personally rewarding and can lead to careers in areas other than teaching of English to college-level students. While we encourage our students to study English in graduate school, currently opportunities to teach undergraduate English and related subjects (e.g., linguistics, folklore, film) are very limited. Students who do pursue graduate study in English should consider qualifying themselves also in unusual, but related minors, such as children’s literature, folklore, film study, linguistics, TESOL and world literature in English. Before choosing a graduate program, study and compare graduate requirements and course offerings, which vary considerably from school to school. Some programs allow virtually no electives (hence, no minors); others offer more freedom to choose. Some departments offer only “classic” literary studies; others have more varied offerings.
Some English majors choose M.A. or M.F.A. programs in creative writing. Many undergraduate English majors go on to graduate school in areas other than English (e.g., library science, journalism, law, social work, counseling, finance, medicine). Some master’s programs (often M.A.T.) prepare students to teach secondary school English, even if they did not take teacher education courses in undergraduate school. Degrees in applied linguistics (TESOL), rhetoric and composition and bilingual teacher education are more likely to lead to tenured teaching positions in today’s job market. If you intend eventually to earn a Ph.D., it is probably better to enroll in a Ph.D. program from the beginning, rather than to earn an M.A. in English and then apply to admission to a Ph.D. program – especially if that also involves transferring from one university to another.
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No matter what you choose as your graduate field of study, you’ll need at least a reading knowledge of one or more foreign languages to obtain an advanced degree. It’s helpful to begin or continue language study as an undergraduate so that you can do significant research in your field later on.
If you choose to pursue a graduate degree – an M.A. or Ph.D. – in Spanish, German or French, you should be aware that opportunities for teaching languages in college are limited. Your chances for employment are increased if you combine a modern European or Latin American language with another, less common language such as Arabic, Japanese or Chinese. You may also combine Spanish with French or German to increase your employability or to specialize in comparative literature.
Advanced degrees in foreign-language pedagogy, including computer-assisted teaching and learning techniques, are perceived to be in demand; TESOL credentials are also useful and increase one’s flexibility. Library science and business are two additional fields in which knowledge of a foreign language may determine the difference between a job and a career.
Seminary is an important option for graduate study. Combined with further language training, an M.Div. or D.D. prepares you to spread the Good News anywhere in the world.
Graduate students in foreign languages, like those in English, should enroll in a doctoral program from the outset rather than earning a master’s degree and then continuing their studies, perhaps at another institution. Chances are greater for receiving a fellowship or assistantship if you intend to remain at one institution for all of your graduate work.
Let faculty members know as soon as possible about your plans for graduate study, even if you are unsure of exactly what you want to do with your language major or minor. They can help you select the program(s) that will offer you the most challenge – and the most opportunity.
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- Private nonprofit agencies such as museums, historical societies, etc.
- Public agencies (governmental departments and special government projects – for instance, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA – hire historians to create historical memories of their work by keeping archives, writing histories, etc.)
- Smaller private firms
- Larger corporations
- Jobs in publishing (i.e. aquisitions editors for university presses)
Much of the nonacademic employment is under the rubric “public history.” Public history includes a wide range of activities, from working for state and local historical societies preserving records, researching about historic landmarks, operating museums, writing historical pieces and more, to helping governments, labor unions, or whomever create social histories of their people. If you are interested in such nonacademic employment, you will want to investigate which graduate schools have strong public history programs. If your interests include working for business employers, you will want to inquire also about business-history programs.
Academic careers based on graduate work in history: even these careers are not all of one kind. Some main categories are:
- College history teaching
- High-school teaching by persons with master’s degrees: either an M.A. in some field of history if you already have your teaching certificate or a master of arts in teaching added to your undergraduate history major.
- University or college-related archival and historical-library work
- A limited number of positions in private high schools (or “preparatory schools”). Most elite “prep schools” even hire persons with the Ph.D. degree to teach at the secondary-school level.
For some of these roles graduate schools offer special programs – for instance in archival training or, of course, the special M.A. in teaching programs.
Other career options
The undergraduate history major is also exceptionally good preparation for further professional training in quite a few other vocations, most notably:
- Biblical and theological seminary training and the ensuring careers
- Law schools and various kinds of legal careers
- Librarians’ training and vocations
- Public administration, that is, preparation for management of public agencies
- Other kinds of administration (e.g. hospital administration)
- Foreign-service school, for careers in diplomacy, in international NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), in certain roles in international business, etc.
- City management, urban policy specialists
- M.B.A. programs (master of business administration)
In some cases it will be good if you have strength in another field, along with history: e.g., for the M.B.A., strength in economics. But remember: graduate-level programs do not always require an undergraduate major in the same field. E.g., a school of journalism may appreciate the breadth that a history major brings and prefer to do its teaching of journalism rather than demand an undergraduate major in communications or journalism. The same principle applies in law schools.
Graduate school testing and preparation
Virtually all graduate-school history departments will want you to take the Graduate Record Examination – especially the general-aptitude part. A few schools may also require the special exam in history–inquire with the admissions counselor. Other professional schools may want you to take other examinations, such as the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) for entry into law school. Many programs, especially those that value skill in writing, will also want to see a sample research paper or other work that you have written.
GC has resources available for students who wish to pursue a law degree. GC pre-law students who wish to attend law school should contact the pre-law advisor, email@example.com, by the fall semester of their sophomore year, if possible.
Law school applicants must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and register with the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS), which processes all law school applications. The LSAT should be taken during the junior year or the summer between the junior and senior year, so that the student will have enough time to select schools and process the applications during the fall semester of the senior year. LSAT/LSDAS registration booklets, LSAT prep-information and specific information about many law schools are available from the pre-law advisor.
Additional law school information is available in the Good Library. Local attorneys and Alan Weldy, associate professor of business and attorney, are also available by appointment for consultation about law school and the field of law. In addition, the pre-law club brings guest speakers and GC alumni involved in the field of law and law schools to campus from time to time.
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It is generally recommended that baccalaureate nursing graduates practice for one-two years after licensure prior to enrolling in graduate studies. This time in clinical practice increases the nurse’s competence and confidence and often provides direction in graduate study selection.
Selection of a graduate program is directly related to career plans. Advanced practice nursing includes nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist roles (includes nurse midwifery and nurse anesthetists). Nurses who wish to become educators or researchers need to obtain both nursing master’s and doctoral degrees.
A very helpful resource is the Peterson’s Guide to Nursing Programs, which is available in the Good Library Reference Room and the Nursing Department in Wyse Hall. Students should also discuss their graduate study goals with nursing department faculty.
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Physics and engineering
The physics major provides sufficient background for successful entry into either the M.S. or Ph.D. program at any American graduate school in physics. Entry from the Goshen College physics department into a graduate program in engineering is often successful as well, but depends upon both the area of engineering study to be undertaken and the school to which one is applying. Often entry into a program such as electrical engineering and applied physics or some branches of mechanical engineering is possible without additional undergraduate courses.
The student planning graduate study should be aware that entry into graduate programs in physics and engineering is not granted on the basis of grade point averages, although these are indicators of a student’s basic potential. Attention should be paid to obtaining an in-depth understanding of course material. However, the Ph.D. is a research degree. The creative abilities of a student, as well as the fundamental interest exhibited by the student beyond the coursework, count heavily in the recommendation for further study.
Entrance to a graduate program in physics or engineering is determined primarily on the basis of faculty recommendations, which reflect the student’s interest, creativity, potential for research and potential as a teacher.
Graduate schools expect to see evidence of student interest beyond the classroom. Therefore, a student planning further education at the graduate level should plan to become involved in the department as a laboratory assistant as well as in the research program.
Goshen College graduates are normally highly successful in graduate programs and are eagerly sought by many graduate schools because of their experience in research gained at the undergraduate level. This experience in research aids the student in determining an area of study, while providing the necessary background to undertake independent research. The department of physics at Goshen College conducts an extensive research program with a number of projects available for students. The research may be undertaken during the academic year and, depending upon the level of funding available, during the summer.
Research opportunities and the availability of projects should be discussed with the advisor. Both experimental and theoretical projects are available. The topic chosen for undergraduate research does not determine the area for graduate study.
The student planning on graduate education should also consider writing an undergraduate thesis. Sucessfully conducting the research required for a thesis, writing of the thesis and presentation of the work at a professional or undergraduate conference are all important in preparation for graduate school. These are also the basic requirements for an honors degree in physics.
Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
Most graduate schools request results from the GRE. It is understood, however, that students from small liberal arts colleges are not prepared in the breadth of physics training available in the courses offered at a major university. This difference is taken into consideration by a graduate school in the evaluation of a candidate from a small liberal arts college. A student’s score on the GRE is, therefore, not a deciding factor in determining admission.
Entrance requirements are similar for graduate schools in physics and in engineering. They are not, however, uniform. Programs are determined by the focus of each particular department and by the individual professors at the school. A graduate degree is also a personal undertaking. A student preparing for graduate work should, therefore, try to learn as much as possible about the available programs of potential interest before applying to any particular school.
The department of physics maintains a collection of hard copy journals in the reading room and online access to many others. These, as well as the APS published catalog of graduate programs in physics, also available in the reading room, should be consulted by a student preparing to apply to a graduate program. Magazines such as Physics Today also provide information about physics research and opportunities for graduate work. Discussions with the advisor are also very helpful in deciding on a school.
The student should anticipate financial support in a graduate program. This is usually in the form of a teaching assistantship or a fellowship. The student should be aware, however, that it is often difficult to obtain financial support for a terminal master’s degree. Most of the support for graduate programs in physics and engineering comes from research contracts and the work being done is at the Ph.D. level.
Although Goshen College does not currently offer a degree in political science, several political science courses are taught each semester. Goshen College students with an interest in political science have been very successul entering graduate school on the strength of their preparation in another major field, often in history. So a history major, perhaps combined with another social-science major, will put you in a position to apply with confidence to graduate programs related to political science.
Applicants should plan to take the general-aptitude part of the GRE or the other more specialized examinations such as the LSAT.
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Students anticipating graduate study in psychology should begin active preparations in the fall of the senior year. The first step is often consulting the volume on Graduate Study in Psychology in the library. Students should select from 12 to 15 schools (taking into account credentials, size, location, programs) and send for catalogues and application materials during October. Plans should also be made to take the GRE in December.
After materials arrive, make the final choice of schools to which to apply. Students are encouraged to apply to six to eight schools (a couple prestigious, selective schools, two or three in the middle range and two or three with easier admission standards). Applications should be sent in late December or early January.
Admission to top schools is extremely competitive, but getting into second tier schools is much less difficult (and to the surprise of some, the quality of the teaching is actually better in some second-level programs). While financial aid is not plentiful, students should apply for fellowships and assistantships. Teaching assistantships are often available. It is rather unusual for a psychology graduate student to compile a large financial debt.
Finally, keep in touch with psychology faculty. They can be especially helpful in selecting schools, by providing advice on content of personal statements and by giving help in understanding the fellowship/assistantship process. And of course, they are a good source for letters of recommendation.
The Goshen College Psychology Department has been very successful (100% acceptance either first or second application attempt) in achieving graduate admission for our students and those admitted have been very successful in their programs. The data show that 18 psychology majors have earned doctorates and 64 graduates have achieved masters’ degrees over the past 21 years. Thus, more than 1/3 of psychology majors have earned graduate degrees. (This is likely an underestimate since alumni department records are incomplete.)
Sociology, anthropology, and social work
Students interested in graduate programs in sociology, anthropology, and social work should speak with department faculty. The process of graduate school application is discussed annually in Senior Seminar.
The social work program faculty have an annually updated summary of all accredited social work graduate programs in the United States. This summary is prepared by the Council of Social Work Education and is housed with Marge Brandeberry, phone ext. 7400. This information is now also available on line at the Council on Social Work Education web site.
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