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Maria Nero
Noodle Expert Member

March 10, 2021

Have you considered them all?

There are many factors that go into choosing a graduate program and it is important to make sure you are checking everything off the list. This decision will impact your career and finances and you need all the information to make the best decision for yourself. This list of questions reflects my own experience that led me to my program and I wanted to provide my thought process if it can help you get the answers you need. My degree is a Masters in Health Informatics with a concentration in Data Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Finding the Degree

  1. What are my skills? - General healthcare knowledge, diabetes, technology, technology support
  2. Have I searched for degrees that utilize these skills? Are there degrees that use a combination of them? - My google search came up with health informatics, data science, and bioinformatics
  3. If there are multiple degree options, have I compared them? - Bioinformatics seemed to have a strong genetic component and I have little experience in that field. I also would have had to take more pre-requisites and that did not make sense to me when I was more qualified for health informatics.
  4. How do I pick a school? - My school has an online program that gives the option of adding a concentration in data science. I encourage applying to multiple schools, but it is good to evaluate the different paths that each school can provide to you. The following questions will also help you narrow down your options.

Classroom Setting

  1. Do I want to take in-person courses or online? - See my article here about the pros and cons of online learning. I did not want to relocate, there were no programs offered in my area, and online learning has worked fine for me in the past.


  1. Do I need financial aid? What are my options? - I applied for student loans through FAFSA. Every school has a financial aid office that can discuss different options, such as scholarships or work-study programs. My school also sends out routine e-mails with different funding opportunities.


  1. How long will it take me to graduate? - I did not have a certain timeline that I needed to graduate by. In the past, I felt like I needed to be done with school by a certain age but abiding by that timeline did not actually seem to benefit me in any way. It is important to go back to school when you feel ready. My program is usually done between 2-2.5 years. I may graduate in 2.5 because I added the data science concentration. This additional time is worth it to me based on how it will further my career. With that said, most master’s programs are two years. However, I have seen accelerated 1-year programs, depending on the degree. Make sure to check with each school to which you are applying.
  2. What is the job outlook? - Your school should post data about the alumni job acceptance rate. I would also recommend talking to an advisor about connecting you with past students to discuss their experiences. My school offered webinars with past students for this purpose.
  3. Does this degree have career options in cities I want to live in for the long term? - Careers with certain specialties, such as engineering, can be prominent in certain parts of the country and not in others. This is an important aspect of preparation.

I hope this list of questions helps you on your journey or inspires other questions to come to mind. This is a very exciting process and the more prepared you are, the more you will get out of it!

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