Checking Out Post-Bachelors Certificates

By: Ashley

There have been blog posts on graduate and professional school, but what other options are out there? I asked myself this question back when I was a freshman because I knew that graduate school was an option but not something I really felt was right for me. I remember going into my freshman advising appointment and talking with my advisor. She asked me what I was interested in and from the career assessments I took in the Career & Internship Services office I knew I was really interested in Medical Laboratory Science. I didn’t know much about the career but I knew it sounded promising. I did some research and found out that medical laboratory scientists are responsible for carrying out scientific testing on samples and reporting the results to physicians, and they get to work with state-of-the-art equipment to analyze a variety of biological specimens. It was the perfect mix of helping people, which I’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t involve direct patient care, which is something I knew I didn’t want to do.

During that advising appointment my advisor told me about this post-baccalaureate program through the Mayo Clinic for students who have earned a bachelors degree in a biological science. It is a certification program where at the end of the 10.5 months students earn a certificate in medical laboratory science from Mayo Clinic. After graduating from the program, students are eligible for certification through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification (BOC) and are credentialed as medical laboratory scientists. I was intrigued and excited at the possibility of getting into a program at the Mayo Clinic and being able to do something that seemed to align with everything I wanted to get out of a career, not to mention there was no test I had to take to apply (like the GRE or MCAT), which was a major bonus.

Ever since that advising appointment I have been shaping my classes in accordance to the required and recommended courses listed for this program, I have kept my GPA above the required, and gained some first-hand experience in the lab of a hospital by volunteering in the Essentia Health-St. Mary’s pathology lab over this past summer. So the time came, 3 years in the making, I had to apply for the program. I wrote an essay on why I wanted to be a medical lab scientist, I got 3 recommendations, and submitted my application all the while keeping my fingers crossed in the hopes that I would get an interview. I applied in August. September and October went by and I had still heard no word, I was beginning to get discouraged. On October 29, almost 2 months later I received an email saying I was invited for an interview. All the planning and hard work paid off and now my future seems so much clearer.

Of course you may be wondering why this matters to you or what it has to do with your options other than grad/professional school. Mine is just one example of the possibilities of education after undergrad. There are many certification programs out there, in many fields including human resources, business, education, and technology. Certificate programs are an effective way to expand your expertise in a specific area when the option to go to graduate or professional school is either not an option, not wanted, or not warranted.

I suppose the overall take home message of this post is that graduate school is an option, professional school is an option, and certification programs are an option. There are so many options out there after you receive your undergraduate degree, and it is never too soon to explore all your options!

Of Possible Interest:

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What to Think About: Masters of Social Work (MSW)

By: Meg


Why would you want to get a MSW? If you’re interested in Social Work, it’s definitely something to think about. In order to be a social worker, you have to actually have a degree in Social Work. You can do that with a Bachelor’s, but if that’s not an option, you can get an MSW.

If you do have a BSW, you can think about advancement potential. In order to do independent counseling or get into administration, you’ll need a Master’s. Chances are you’ll only need 1 year of full-time course work to get there, though!


First thing to check when you are looking at MSW programs is whether they’re accredited or not. If they aren’t, you won’t be able to get a job as a social worker. It’s not worth your time. Check to make sure the schools you’re looking at are accredited.

Field Placement

Social Work programs will all have some kind of field placement/internship. These are required to get your license, so it’s important not to skip over. There are usually two placement experiences, one the first year and one the second year. If you have a BSW, you’ve already done something similar. The one thing not all programs have in common is how you get to your placements. Some programs assign you to them, while others have you find them by yourself. There’s a lot of variation to be had. I’ve heard of several programs who assign your first year internship, then you find your second year experience. When you’re assigned an internship you don’t have a lot of choice, but you will definitely have one set up with an organization your school trusts. On the other hand, if they leave you on your own to set it up, you might end up scrambling trying to get everything approved.

Focus (or not)

Some schools have a very general approach, and your focus would come in mostly during field placement. UMD’s MSW program is very generalized. There are a few classes that pertain to working with Native American culture, but they make sure that you’re prepared for whatever focus you end up in, even if it changes. Other programs may have a focus in child and family, adolescents, mental health, substance use, etc. If you know your focus, you might think of going to a school within that, so long as it also has a generalized base. You want to make sure that you have the skills if your goals ever change.

There’s a lot to consider when thinking about Graduate School. If you want help figuring it out, stop by Career and Internship Services and set up an appointment with a counselor. You could also stop in to the Social Work office to ask about it.

Of Possible Interest:

Read Meg’s other posts

When Grad School is for You – Just Not Right Now

By: Meg

I’m graduating soon, and with that comes a lot of thoughts about the future. I’m going into Social Work, so while I know grad school is going to happen, I’m not ready to apply yet. Even though you might not be filling out applications with your fellow grad school bound classmates, there are still some ways to prepare for it.

Grad School not right now


Look at the programs that you’re thinking of applying to: check the website, talk to current and past students, and talk to professors if you can. You want to learn what they’re looking for in a student. This could affect your job choice in the interim. If your programs are looking for specific experience, you should know that now.


A lot of grad schools require GRE scores, and some of them require subject tests. Your GRE scores are good for 5 years after you take them. If you’re planning on applying to grad school within that time period, it might be a good idea to do this testing while you’re still in school mode. It also gives you a definitive deadline for when you’re going to apply.


Grad schools LOVE reference letters. Take a look into the grad schools you think you’ll apply for. Chances are they want 2 or 3. When you’re out in the workforce, you’ll want to make a good impression on your supervisors. Now, however, is a good time to get a reference letter from a professor or advisor who you think would help your application. Ask them if they feel like they could write you a (good) letter, and keep it on file. Keep in contact with this professors or advisors once you are done with undergrad. Let them know what you’re doing and where you are in the process when you finally get to applying to grad school. At that point you may want (or need) to get an updated letter or reference form – you want your UMD contacts to still be a good reference for you.


Set some deadlines for yourself. Tell yourself that you want to apply in 3, 4, or however many years. Then prepare for that. Don’t commit to a job that isn’t going to go anywhere for 4 years when you’re planning on leaving in 2. This isn’t set in stone, and if, while you’re out in the world, you decide you don’t need (or want) to go back to school, then no harm done.

One of the best ways to prepare for grad school while you’re not in college is to get out of school mode. Grad school is intense, no matter what the program is. So while you’re taking time off, get some experience out in the world. Whether that means working a “big person” job, or taking some time off and traveling, just do it.

Of Possible Interest:

Read Meg’s other posts

Surviving the First Year of Grad School

By: Justine

Editor’s Note: We’re welcoming Justine back for a guest post! Check out all her previous work on the blog from when she was a student!

Even though I can hardly believe it, I have completed my first year of doctorate degree in physical therapy. The year has gone fast and with this post I will share a few things I found helpful throughout my first year in the program.

Surviving Grad School

Get to know your classmates

Once you have made it past the application process, your acceptance into a grad program marks the end of the competition with your fellow peers. Getting to know your classmates has many benefits beyond forming friendships. Each of my classmates shares a common interest in physical therapy but our backgrounds and past experiences make us each unique. Some students with an athletic training background are more familiar with sports injuries while others have a background in geriatrics. You can learn from your classmates as they may be able to share ideas or explain concepts you have difficulty with.

Set up a study schedule

Another benefit of getting to know classmates is to find other students who have a similar study method as you. A big part of physical therapy is patient education which requires not only that you are able to understand a concept but are also able to explain it to your patients in terms that they will understand. Due to that focus, I would frequently get together with a few classmates before or after our classes to go over lectures and break down the more complicated concepts so we could fully understand the material. Find classmates who have similar study methods as you in order to make your study time the most effective for your learning.

Learn to manage free time

This one isn’t much different from an undergrad piece of advice. However, once I started school again I became a bit jealous of my graduated friends working full time jobs without an extra homework load to do in the evenings. This was a change from my undergrad days because at that time all my friends were in school and had times where they needed to study as well. Someday, I will be able to relate to a 40 work week without homework (and a paycheck instead of loans!) but until then I will be spending a little more time with my nose in my textbooks. For the time you are in graduate school, make it a priority to get comfortable with a study schedule, with a few study breaks squeezed in for the occasional social outing or get-together with a friend.

Maintain the knowledge

This is going to be your career field. One of the big switches I had to change in my brain from undergrad to graduate school was commitment to the material. I can confess that in some of my undergrad classes I would hold onto the material until the exam and then it would fade away. Now it’s much easier for me to see the application of the material I am learning, it will help me to understand my patient better and allow me to answer patient questions when they arise. Finding the right career path for you will make learning much more meaningful and purposeful and eventually support a career in a field that you love.

One of the most rewarding aspects of grad school is that I’m being taught by physical therapists, in a classroom of students who want to be physical therapists, who will one day be working in a field with people who need physical therapy. It’s a very welcoming environment and after making it through my first year, I know that this is the right field for my future. To anyone else who is starting or continuing within a graduate program, I wish you luck and hope that you find success in all that you do!

Read Justine’s other posts

What Can I do with an Undergraduate Major in Communication Sciences & Disorders?

By: Sue Holm & Janet Pribyl (2 of our fabulous Career Counselors)

Most people majoring in Communication Sciences & Disorders (CSD) figure they’ll go to graduate school to become speech pathologists or audiologists. So, what do you do if you weren’t accepted to a graduate program in CSD or if you decide you don’t want to go to graduate school, or at least not right away? You might be surprised to learn there are lots of options! See what recent UMD CSD graduates are doing.


You applied to graduate school and weren’t accepted

If you applied and weren’t accepted, contact the schools to find out why. CSD programs are highly competitive so it might be there were too many applicants for a select few spots. Inform the schools that you plan to apply again (conventional wisdom is to try 3 times) and you want to know what would make your application stronger. Different programs place different emphases on parts of the application so find out what pieces of your application could be improved upon. Once you have more information you can work on making the changes. Additionally, consider applying to more or different schools.

Sometimes you may need more experience. If you’re interested in working in schools, some districts can hire you as a speech therapist aide on a temporary limited license. This will enable you to gain experience before graduate school. If your personal statement needs work, see Career & Internship Services to help revise it for the next application cycle. If you need additional coursework or a stronger grade point average, consider taking a course at the graduate level as a non-degree seeking student to prove your ability to be a successful graduate student. Check with the schools to which you are applying to determine if this is an option.

You’ve decided not to go to graduate school, at least not yet

If you don’t want to go to graduate school, or at least not right away, it could be a good time for self-assessment and exploration. Take the Strong Interest Inventory, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and/or StrengthsQuest to explore other directions, options, and possibilities. Learning more might lead you to consider applying to other types of graduate programs (i.e. social work, counseling, communication, special education) or other health or medical related programs (i.e. occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, nursing). Your major in CSD is attractive to other types of programs to which you can apply!

Explore what drew you to CSD in the first place. Is it a desire to help people? There are lots of other ways to do this. Look at what people with psychology, sociology, education, or other majors are doing. With your CSD major you can do many of the things students with other majors do. To see where other UMD graduates are working check out the Graduate Follow-up Report. You could also help people through joining the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. Explore all these options while you determine your next steps.

If you decide to go straight into a job search, examine what skills you have. Communication, problem solving, teamwork, managing, planning, organizing, and analyzing, to name just a few, are all skills you developed during your undergraduate education and are skills that employers in all fields desire. Learn to communicate you have these skills, and others, and a wide variety of occupations with a wide variety of employers may be open to you.

Most importantly – know there ARE options and possibilities. Talk to a counselor in Career & Internship Services to discuss your situation and brainstorm ideas. We are here to help!

Your Summer of Transition

By: Hayley

So I hate to admit this but my years here at UMD are quickly coming to an end and once this school year is over the only thing standing between me a grad school will be summer! Three tiny months before I begin the daunting task of graduate school. So to put my mind at ease and to help me make the most of this summer I have done a little research and would like to share what I have found with you.

Grad School Summer

Some of the articles I read had some generic things that most people think of doing but others had some really interesting ideas that I hadn’t thought of. Here is a compiled list of some of the things I plan to do along with some other things as well.

  • Relax: This is probably obvious and I’m sure that, like me, you have been told many times how stressful grad school is and how busy you will be. So it makes sense that this tip popped up in most of these articles. However, I think, this is a little easier said than done for most people. I mean I am looking forward to grad school but I am also nervous about starting a new program, in a new school and a new city. I know myself well enough to know that I will be thinking about this all summer and it may prevent me from relaxing but I am going to do my best to make sure I push that to the back of my mind and really relax.
  • Get a Summer Job or Internship: This is something that I am really having a hard time with. In my experience, it is always hard to find someone who is willing to hire you just for the summer and once the summer begins I will be a college graduate, which eliminates half of the possibilities. I personally think that looking for an internship would be your best bet and will also give you some good experience for your resume; you may not have the time to take on an internship outside of your grad program after you begin.
  • Travel: Now, personally, I can’t afford to go much of anywhere but for those of you who can, I would take this time and do it. It also may give you some valuable experience before you begin school.
  • Spend Time With Friends and Family: As I mentioned earlier, most people say they don’t have much free time once they start school. Make the most of this time by spending it with your friends, who got you through your undergrad, or your family because once you start grad school it may seem like you have dropped off the face of the earth. Also warn them that might happen so they are not shocked when you stop returning their calls once your program starts.
  • Have Fun: This can be an number of things from reading to playing video games, watching TV or surfing the internet, or spending time outside. Do what you want to do while you can. Reading and watching TV are some of my favorite things to do and I haven’t really had a whole lot of time for them during school so I plan on doing a ton of it while I do have some time during the summer.

Hopefully some of these tips are helpful to you and there are a bunch I left out. Below are links to the articles I found helpful.

Read Hayley’s other posts

Grad School Interview! Yes! But Wait, How do I Get Ready? Part II

By: Brittany

In my last blog post I talked about three things you could do to get started on preparing for your interview: setting the date, research and talking points. Now that those are in progress (or collected), let me talk about the last few things you can do to prepare yourself completely for your interview.

Questions for the Interviewer

This, for me, and others, is a challenging part of preparing for the interviewing process. This supports why researching the school and the program is so important. A lot of the questions that you will be asking will be based off of your research. When you think of these questions, be sure to write them down on a note pad and don’t be afraid to bring that in with you to the interview. There are only a few things that I would suggest you ask them: “When you can expect to hear from them either way?” and “How will you hear from them?” (if not answered within the first question). Some other suggestions of questions you could ask if you’re struggling to find something’s to ask them: “What qualities do they look for in applicants?” and “Do they provide assistantships or other employment (or internships) options within the program?” Some questions may also come up within the interview as well.


This may be a silly thing to think about, but it’s important. You will want to dress nicely and present yourself in a professional manner, but also find something that shows off your personality a little bit. You will want to wear something that you’re comfortable in (ladies, wear shoes that you are able to walk around in for a potential tour) and something that is complimentary on you. If you’re having a hard time finding something here are some generic suggestions. Ladies: dress pants and a nice top (with a potential cute suit jacket over it). Skirts are okay as long as they are at an appropriate length. Stay away from low cut shirts. Gentlemen: dress pants, dress shirt and tie (possibility for a suit jacket over it, if you’re comfortable with it) along with dress shoes (don’t forget the black socks).

Last Few Steps

Once all your preparation is done, I highly suggest you schedule a mock interview with a career counselor in Career & Internship Services. The process can be very useful because the counselor can reassure you that you’re ready and may bring up good points that you didn’t think of. There is no particular way these are done: the career counselor may ask you questions similar to what may be asked in the interview, you will answer and they will debrief with you after each question; you can discuss what you’re worried about, how the process usually works, and then brainstorm your talking points; or you can do a full fledged interview and debrief afterwards. Whatever way the mock interview is done, feel free to take notes during the process and review them before your actual interview.

When I was going in for my mock interview I asked the question of wearing my interview outfit to the mock interview. You don’t have to but it wouldn’t hurt; it gets you in the mindset and you can also get feedback on how it looks. I recommend getting the mock interview in a week or so before your actual interview so you have time to digest what was discussed in the mock interview.

Last, but certainly not least, allow yourself time to relax and congratulate yourself in the fact that you’ve been offered an interview. These are big steps that are taken and should only be positively recognized!

Read Brittany’s other posts