Setting Career Goals Can Help You Conquer Graduate School
Thinking about graduate school can bring a mixture of excitement and uncertainty. You love the idea of furthering your education (and career), but you may be concerned about next steps. This is very common and totally understandable.

Fortunately, setting career goals early on can help you feel more confident. Whether it’s making long-term goals or identifying short-term aspirations, knowing where you want to go—and how to get there—can make pursuing your goals that much easier.

Here are a few important actions you’ll want to take when charting your course to success. With the proper planning and hard work, you too can conquer graduate school.

Align Graduate School Goals with Career Goals

Graduate-level curriculum is designed to equip you with advanced skills, experience, and insight you need to reach your goals. Do you want to advance your current career, add new skills, or get training to switch into a different field? If so, then attending graduate school may be a wise decision.

But before investing your time and money in a graduate degree, it’s important to explore the degree programs offered at different institutions. Finding a degree path that complements your personal preferences and aligns with your future plans is the first (and most important) step when setting career goals. You’ll want to make sure the school you choose is a good fit for you and that the degree can help you build on your existing career experiences or start working toward new ones.

Once you feel confident in taking the next step toward graduate school and your career, you can make more specific plans to reach your goals.

Set SMART Goals

When you set out to turn your career aspirations into clear-cut steps or goals, it’s important to make sure they’re SMART—that is, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. This approach is fairly straightforward. Look at each dimension and consider how it applies to your hopes and expectations for graduate school and your vocation.

For instance, what is your specific career goal? What grades do you need to measure up against to get into the program? Can you attain the knowledge needed to finish the degree? Is the program of interest relevant to the career you want? When do you hope to graduate? Breaking down your steps into SMART goals can help you reach your ultimate destination of graduating and moving forward in your career. It can also equip you to tackle unexpected tasks or things that arise during your journey.

Thinking through each of your long-term aspirations with this lens will prepare you to choose the best graduate school and degree program for you.

Work Backward to Meet Your Goals

Once you know which graduate school is the right fit—and you’ve set goals that align with your career plans—it’s time to work backward. While this may sound counterintuitive, it can be an effective way to chalk up small wins in pursuit of your ultimate goal.

Starting with your big goal in mind, work backward by deconstructing the steps it will take to get there. This will help you see the path that leads to success.

For example, perhaps your goal is to become a teacher (or nurse, physical therapist, entrepreneur, and so on). Ask yourself a few questions about how you’ll reach this career goal and write down the answers. Research the requirements for your field and consider how you might approach each one. For example, are certain tests required for licensing in your field? How can you ensure that you will do well on the exam? You might commit to studying for it and joining a test preparation group. These represent practical steps toward reaching your ultimate goal.

Setting career goals is paramount when deciding to pursue a graduate degree. When you set attainable goals, you can confidently take that next step in your career.

Are you interested in learning more about graduate programs at Azusa Pacific University? Take a look at the school’s graduate offerings to find one that aligns with your personal career goals.