Perhaps medical illustration is your graduate school niche?

Almost everybody who begins to explore their graduate school options eventually discovers the incredible diversity that exists out there. Graduate degrees are niche. Specializations exist that span a wide and colorful spectrum of opportunities. A world of options exist. People thinking about graduate school typically only apply to programs when they find ones that offer a match to their interests. Often times, they don’t know a niche even exists until they see it for the first time.

I recently exchanged a few emails with Professor John Daugherty, director of a graduate program in Biomedical Visualization at the University of Illinois-Chicago. His program recently renewed its subscription on Gradschoolmatch for another year with hopes of finding and attracting just the right students. That’s a problem every graduate program faces, irrespective of their niche.

And that’s exactly the problem Gradschoolmatch is designed to solve. Our aim is to reduce the friction out there for programs and students alike, to make it easier to find each other and then have an intelligent, high level exchange to decide on fit.

By coincidence, just today I ran across a great article in The Atlantic that describes the field of study in medical illustration and the work one can do. If you are someone with an aptitude for both art and biology, you should take a look at the article and then sign in on Gradschoolmatch to give Professor Daugherty a shout.

In fact, the article features Meredith Osborn, a graduate of UIC’s Master’s in Biomedical Visualization program. Here’s some examples the work by students in the program:


Numbers of Gradschoolmatch Users and their Academic Interests for Graduate School

Interested in knowing the numbers of students using with an affinity for your academic field? From time-to-time we take a snapshot of what they’d like to study.

As of late 2015, here are their declared academic field interests for graduate school as a percent of the overall users on the site.  The total number of users on the site changes daily, but the proportions of academic interests remains fairly stable. The current numbers are shown on the top left corner of this page.

Percents of Student Users by Declared Graduate Interests

12.46 Health professions and related programs.
11.04 Business, management, marketing, and related support services.
9.38 Psychology.
6.99 Biological and biomedical sciences.
6.94 Social sciences.
6.35 Education.
5.50 Engineering.
3.54 Communication, journalism, and related programs.
3.53 Visual and performing arts.
3.09 Public administration and social service professions.
3.06 Multi/interdisciplinary studies.
2.80 Legal professions and studies.
2.71 Computer and information sciences and support services.
2.34 Physical sciences.
2.24 English language and literature/letters.
1.57 Homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting and related protective services.
1.40 Foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics.
1.39 Mathematics and statistics.
1.30 Area, ethnic, cultural, gender, and group studies.
1.29 History.
1.23 Natural resources and conservation.
1.15 Residency programs.
1.04 Engineering technologies and engineering-related fields.
0.91 Parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies.
0.85 Agriculture, agriculture operations, and related sciences.
0.84 Family and consumer sciences/human sciences.
0.82 Architecture and related services.
0.79 Leisure and recreational activities.
0.78 Philosophy and religious studies.
0.46 Liberal arts and sciences, general studies and humanities.
0.29 Theology and religious vocations.
0.24 Military technologies and applied sciences.
0.23 Library science.
0.22 Communications technologies/technicians and support services.
0.21 Interpersonal and social skills.
0.19 Health-related knowledge and skills.
0.13 Military science, leadership and operational art.
0.12 Transportation and materials moving.
0.12 Construction trades.
0.11 Science technologies/technicians.
0.08 Basic skills and developmental/remedial education.
0.07 Citizenship activities.
0.06 Personal awareness and self-improvement.
0.05 Mechanic and repair technologies/technicians.
0.03 Personal and culinary services.
0.02 High school/secondary diplomas and certificates.
0.01 Precision production.


Should I Go To Law School?

Thinking about attending law school?

Law school application and enrollment rates have been dropping for several years. A growing conventional wisdom has been that a law degree doesn’t have the value proposition it once had, and that times are tough particularly for new law school grads.

Law school is not inexpensive, and many have come to doubt that a law degree can pay off in either higher immediate or life time earnings. People who are actually curious about the field of law question whether they should go to law school.

I tend to gravitate toward contrarian points of view, to zig where others zagging, particularly when strong evidence supports taking a different course than what most are doing. Here is a data-driven argument by authors of a published study on the question. Their conclusion is that the law school value proposition remains a good one.

“The optimal strategy to get the most out of law school financially is to go to law school as soon as possible after deciding that you eventually want to go to law school.”

The idea is a simple one: The sooner you get through law school, the sooner you will step up on a track to earn more income than you would with your bachelors degree.

I’d add one more point to this well-written argument. In a national survey of current graduate students that we are conducting, irrespective of academic field of study, over 90% say that their main motivation to get an advanced degree is to fulfill their academic curiosity.

In other words, they specialize in what they study because it interests them.

Another conventional wisdom is that there is no such thing as a sure thing. However, if you are truly curious about the law, if you can see yourself practicing law or doing the work that law school grads do, and if you are willing to bet on the average improved lifetime earnings outcome that law school grads enjoy, then there is no reason not to think about applying and attending as soon as you can mobilize the effort.


Understanding Types of Graduate Programs

Most graduate programs are based within individual departments at a university and focus upon a highly specific academic field of study. This makes a lot of sense because we attend graduate school to specialize in a given academic field.

However, three common types of graduate programs —Interdisciplinary, Interdepartmental and Umbrella, let’s call them the I.I.U. programs– have broader academic structure. The I.I.U. graduate programs tend to be larger as they bring together more faculty and students on the basis of shared thematic interests.

For students, I.I.U. programs can sometimes offer a wider breadth in both curriculum and research opportunities compared to traditional departmental-based programs. For universities, I.I.U. programs function mostly to foster the collaborative environments that drive  more innovation and research.

As research revenue grows  more resources are available to fund more graduate student slots. I.I.U. programs also allow for more efficient use of resources for administration and student support, like offering a variety of strong career guidance initiatives.

I.I.U’s can differ from departmental programs culturally.  Since more people are generally involved in I.I.U.’s the difference is not unlike preferring a town to a city, or working at a small company rather than one larger.

However, it is important to recognize that, as great as this all seems, what matters most to a prospect is fit. Effective I.I.U. programs won’t be better than a traditional departmental-based programs if they fail to deliver everything the right student wants and needs to become expert in a field of study. What is more important than size and complexity is whether or not everybody plays well together. Are the seminars well-attended? Is the oversight of candidates managed well?

And before we get too far, let’s recognize the first interdisciplinary graduate program is actually a fairly traditional concept—we can think of the graduate colleges of Arts & Sciences that are present on virtually all major campuses as the prototype for an interdisciplinary learning environment.

Here is a quick Gradschoolmatch guide to understanding the three different types of graduate programs, including some examples of I.I.U. programs using our site to reach out to you and help you discover your own path.

Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs

In the orthodox view an interdisciplinary program is one that offers a course of studies that combine truly distinct academic disciplines. Some examples would include, law and medicine, or journalism and computer science, or business and engineering. At a typical university, each of these aforementioned disciplines would have their own school or college. Therefore any interdisciplinary program would bridge very distinct academic, educational and administrative units.

Interdepartmental Graduate Programs

As the name implies, interdepartmental programs are constructed by faculty coming together from many different departments.  Interdepartmental programs are a type of interdisciplinary program when, at one extreme, they are comprised of faculty only from departments within a single school or college. For example, when the faculty from various basic science and clinical departments within a medical school create a common graduate program, it would be interdepartmental.

It is not uncommon for programs that are interdepartmental, by this restricted definition, to brand themselves as interdisciplinary.  In part this comes from thinking of distinct academic fields as separate disciplines, even when more closely related to each other than some other field at a different school or college within the university. For example, at one time the classic medical school departments of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology and microbiology where considered separate disciplines. Today, they operate more like concentrations under a common discipline called biomedical science.

Umbrella Graduate Programs

Programs that are brand themselves as Umbrella use the term more often to imply a method of how students enter and are moved onto specialization tracks. Umbrella programs are those interdisciplinary or interdepartmental programs in which all new students enter undifferentiated as to specialization.  They only choose a concentration at some point, usually a semester or a year after starting a core curriculum common along with all others in the program. Once specialized, students join a distinct program for a specific theme under the umbrella, which provides the research, curriculum and community support.

Examples of Interdiscplinary, Interdepartmental and Umbrella Programs on

Masters of Urban Studies Program- Fordham University

In this program, students gain exposure to a variety of disciplines of urban studies, from public policy to journalism. After completing three core courses, students select seven electives that match their interests to determine an area of focus for thesis and field work.

Learn more about Masters programs in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Fordham University in our recent spotlight feature.

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biomedical and Biological Sciences- Vanderbilt University

This unique, collaborative program gives students a holistic overview of the biomedical field during the first year, while allowing them to concurrently take electives. In the second year of the program, students select one of 11 distinct fields of training to complete their graduate education, ranging from pharmacology to human genetics.

Learn more about the IGP at Vanderbilt University in our latest spotlight feature.

Masters in Planning and International Affairs- Florida State University

This joint degree program at FSU combines International Affairs with Regional and Urban Planning, offering students the opportunity to concurrently earn two Master’s degrees.  The International Affairs department, one of two core departments in the degree program, overlaps with 10 different programs on campus, ranging from Anthropology to Philosophy.

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences- UT Southwestern

At UT Southwestern, students enter the Division of Basic Science, which is an umbrella for 10 Ph.D. programs. With some of the top faculty in the country, UT Southwestern’s programs in biomedical science offer top-notch research opportunities in fields like cancer biology, neuroscience, and immunology.

Masters of Molecular Biosciences- Washington State University

This umbrella program, which is housed in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State, joins together degree programs in Molecular Biosciences, Immunology and Infectious Disease, and Neuroscience. Students are able to design their own academic program, with the ability to work with almost 50 different faculty members across 3 discipline-specific tracks.

Masters of Fine Arts in Visual Communication Design- Jacksonville State University

Students in this MFA program have two options: they can either concentrate in one specific discipline within Visual Communication, or complete an individually crafted interdisciplinary program of study under the same umbrella.

Interested in learning more about these types of graduate programs? Check out over 38,000 programs on our platform!


Coming Soon: The 1 Millionth Graduate with a Masters or Doctorate


At some point in the 2017-2018 academic year,  the one-millionth graduate degree to be awarded that year will be handed to a student, along with a firm handshake by some school’s Dean. That will be a milestone event.

That person, the one-millionth graduate in the 2017-2018 year, is either in graduate school right now, perhaps working on a doctorate, or has just applied and is weighing admissions offers. Or s/he is someone who is thinking about what to study and where to apply, and will begin a graduate program later this year or early next. Gradschoolmatch intends to monitor this carefully and we have vague plans to award a Grand Prize befitting a milestone, one-in-a-million event to the lucky recipient. More on that later.

It wasn’t that long ago, in fact it happened during in the 1989-1990 academic year, that the one-millionth baccalaureate was awarded in a year for the first time.  Since then the number of baccalaureates awarded each year has grown steadily along with the growth in the number of masters and doctoral awards.

Over the past several decades the growth rate of graduate degrees awarded each year has been ever so slightly ahead of the growth rate for bachelor degree awards. Currently, about one out of every two college graduates go on to earn an advanced degree (!)  In other words, they might not realize it, but graduate school is the fate of a LOT of students…about every other bachelors degree recipient, to be more precise. Going to graduate school is a very normal thing to do.

And the projections show that in a few years, more than half of all baccalaureates will go back to grad school. At that point, we can accurately say that most baccalaureates go to graduate school. If the trend continues at its current pace, many years from now almost every baccalaureate will have earned an advanced degree, too.

The driving forces underlying these growth rates are more complex than these simple descriptive statistics.  These forces span the gamut from population trends to a high demand for highly educated workers in knowledge-based economies to a shift of training costs that employers used to bear onto the backs of their future workers, who fortunately recapture their education costs later.

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Categories and Academic Fields of Every Graduate Degree Awarded

How many graduate degrees are awarded each year in every field? To answer that, we started first with the academic classification scheme used by NCES that breaks down the thousands of fields into 16 categories. Then we threw all the degrees awarded by various fields in 2012 into their proper categories and added them all up.

The result is the boring bubble chart we see here.  The big two categories are education and business. Together, awards in academic fields comprising education and business accounted for over one third of all graduate degrees awarded in 2012!

The next big two are the health related professions, and then the arts and sciences, which combined account for just under one third of all graduate degrees for the year.

The other third of all graduate degrees are awarded by programs in the remaining 12 categories.

Below is a somewhat less boring visualization of the same 16 academic field categories. Keeping the same 16 color scheme, we break down each silo into its constituent academic fields. Every circle represents an academic field for which scores of programs exist oftentimes, and the size reflects the number of degrees awarded by all the programs in that field nationwide.

For example, in arts and sciences, in a small linguistics field less than two dozen degrees were conferred in 2012, whereas over 8000 were awarded in the field of counseling psychology.

Don’t worry, we don’t force our users to hover over these visualizations to find the programs that they’re looking for.  Our search interface is much more simple. These images are meant to convey an informative and interactive representation of all of the complexity of academic field choices that exist in graduate education.









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