Evaluating your professional qualifications for graduate school

work experience for graduate school“Work experience” generally represents parts of your application that are not evaluated on the transcripts or test scores. The category includes related work experience and internships, of course, and also related research experience. Different academic programs have different preferences about what makes a strong professional background, so let’s look at a few popular examples.

Evaluating your work experience

Full time work experience is useful because it gives you a new perspective to share in the graduate program classroom. The workplace is different than academia and it is useful to draw upon professional challenges and achievements when discussing new cases or topics in the graduate program.

It is often hard for fresh graduates to find employment in Turkey, even if they went to METU, Bilkent, Bogazici, or other highly respected schools. If you are planning a graduate program, it is important to stay focused on that goal and aggressively seek related employment that enhances your strengths, and therefore, your application.

Turkish university graduates frequently graduate with majors they no longer have passion for and seek employment in very different fields (the engineer that wants to go into finance, the business major that wants to go into psychology, etc). Although this makes finding a related job more challenging, it is important to do so. Your first job after university can help you pivot toward your longer term goals and will be a strong indicator to admissions committees of your interests and passion. Don’t settle for a position in the wrong field. Do be more flexible about the kind of position you accept if it is in your desired field. You may need to accept a “lower” position to gain entry to the employer or industry you seek.  That is ok as a starting point and admissions committees will consider that position as a tool to help you transition from your former field of study to your future field.

For graduate programs in business, such as an MBA or DBA, work experience is very important in the admissions committee’s review. Full time work experience after completing the bachelor’s degree is also an asset for graduate programs (especially master’s level) in technical fields where work experience is considered an asset, such as civil engineering, architecture, or urban planning. The more related your experience to these fields, the stronger your application.

Evaluate your background by asking the following questions and comparing the answers with the typical student profile for each program you are considering:

  • How much related work experience do I have?
    • You can include internships, but they have much lower value than full time experience.
  • How “strong” is the experience? If you worked on some interesting projects, held highly responsible positions, or made an important / unique contribution to your role, these can be written about very well on the CV.
  • If appropriate, “Do I have a pivot position that will show the admissions committee I am dedicated to the new career path?“